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Shannan Gilbert autopsy finds no drugs in her system, according to report

An autopsy of Shannon Gilbert, 24, whose disappearance

An autopsy of Shannon Gilbert, 24, whose disappearance sparked a search that uncovered a dumping ground of human remains along Ocean Parkway, detected no drugs in her system at the time of the examination, according to a report obtained by Newsday. Photo Credit: Handout; Johnny Milano

An autopsy on a Jersey City woman whose disappearance sparked a search that uncovered a dumping ground of human remains along Ocean Parkway, detected no drugs in her system at the time of the examination, according to a report obtained by Newsday.

The remains of Shannan Gilbert, 24, were discovered three years ago Saturday in a damp thicket of bramble in Oak Beach less than a mile from where witnesses said they last saw her alive in May 2010.

The disappearance of Gilbert and the discovery of the remains of 10 other people, the first of whom was found nearby four years ago Thursday, continues to confound investigators, who have not made any arrests.

Investigators suspect that, like Gilbert, the four women were prostitutes and were killed and dumped at Gilgo Beach. Suffolk investigators suspect that, unlike Gilbert, a serial killer or killers ended the 10 people's lives.

The Suffolk medical examiner's office has refused to publicly release the results of the autopsy of Gilbert and the four victims found in December 2010: Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon; Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine; Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx; and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 24, of Norwich, Connecticut.

The results of Gilbert's autopsy also showed she had the tips of several fingers and toes missing. Parts of a small bone near her throat were also gone. The autopsy found the cause or manner of Gilbert's death to be "undetermined."

Deputy Medical Examiner Hajar Sims-Childs, who performed the autopsy, wrote in the report of "possible post-mortem animal activity."

Tattered clothing, some of it torn, was also "associated with the remains."

At the time of the examination on Dec. 14, 2011, Gilbert had no illegal drugs in her system. Initial reports of an "erratic phone call" by Gilbert on the last night anyone saw her alive in May 2010 could have been drug-induced, police said at the time.

Mitch Holland, a forensic and DNA expert at Penn State University, said because Gilbert's remains were exposed to the often harsh elements, "I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't find chemicals in the body."

Holland said the weather is "not a very good environment for DNA, chemicals or anything in the body."

Gilbert disappeared May 1, 2010, after she was summoned to Oak Beach by client Joseph Brewer, police have said. Her body was found in Oak Beach in a marsh less than a mile from where she was last seen.

In an email, Suffolk police yesterday said they were "not commenting further at this time on the Gilgo investigation until/unless we have some additional information pertaining to the investigation that serves the investigation or the public by its release."

John Ray, the Gilberts' family attorney, said he and her family still suspect foul play. Suffolk police have said they do not believe her death is connected to the four women found nearby.

Former Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer has said he believed the 10 killings were the work of one individual, but District Attorney Thomas Spota flatly rebutted his theory shortly before Dormer retired in 2011.

"The chances of having two serial killers dumping at the same place is a statistical anomaly," said Vernon J. Geberth, a former NYPD Bronx homicide commander and the author behind the "Practical Homicide" series of textbooks used to train law enforcement officers. "This location was a comfort zone to the person doing the killings. Serial murder is a work in progress. They get better."

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