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Long IslandSerial Killer

Gilbert family asks for fed investigation

Mari Gilbert, mother of Shannan Gilbert, appears with

Mari Gilbert, mother of Shannan Gilbert, appears with her lawyer, John Ray, at Oak Beach on Dec. 20, 2011, where he called for federal authorities to assist in the investigation into the Long Island serial killer case. Credit: James Carbone

The mother of Shannan Gilbert, the New Jersey woman whose remains were found last week near Oak Beach, has asked the Justice Department to take over the investigation into her death and the killings of 10 others, found along Ocean Parkway.

Authorities suspect the 10 victims were killed by one or more serial killers, but say they do not believe Gilbert was the victim of a homicide.

Attorney John Ray, who represents Gilbert's family, said the Suffolk police "have blown completely this investigation from the outset."

The remains of Gilbert, 24, who worked as a prostitute, were found last week in a thicket near where she had fled the home of a client in the Oak Beach gated community. The search for Gilbert was launched shortly after she went missing in May 2010.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer has said he suspects Gilbert accidentally drowned after stumbling up to three-fourths of a mile on foot into dense wetlands.

Gilbert's mother, Mari, said she believes her daughter may have been a victim of the same serial killer or killers responsible for the other victims.

Their badly decomposed remains were found between December 2010 and April 2011, scattered for miles along the parkway west of where Gilbert was found. Dormer says they are likely victims of a single killer, while Suffolk District Attorney Thomas believes multiple killers are to blame.

The Suffolk Medical Examiner's office is still to determine Gilbert's cause of death.

Ray, in his letter addressed to the FBI, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and others, accused the Suffolk police of "haughty incompetence," referencing a classic comedy about a bungling French detective.

"The Suffolk County Police used Pink Panther methods of investigating Shannan's death and the death of the other beach victims, because the victims were perceived by the police to be disreputable, unworthy of competent attention," he wrote.

He cited the Dormer-Spota dispute as evidence of the investigation "devolving into finger-pointing amongst local officials."

Suffolk police did not return calls Tuesday for comment.

Ray is also seeking a federal probe into how Suffolk police initially handled Gilbert's missing persons case.

Asked about the Gilbert family's request, Special Agent Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI in New York City, said the bureau has provided assistance to local police via mapping aircraft and its profiling unit, but declined to comment on whether it would consider taking over the case.

FBI officials would not launch their own investigation into the Gilgo deaths merely because a victim's family sends them a letter, said Peter F. Vaira, a former U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania and Justice Department official.

But, Vaira said, the FBI could find a reason to get involved.

"If they want to, they can find a hook," he said.

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