Judge orders Suffolk police to release Shannan Gilbert 911 tapes
A Suffolk judge has again ordered the county police department to turn over recordings and transcripts of a 911 call made by a woman whose 2010 disappearance led to the discovery of multiple human remains near Gilgo Beach.
The order, issued Monday by state Supreme Court Justice Sanford Neil Berland, gives the department 20 days to turn over recordings of calls by Shannan Gilbert to attorneys representing her estate in a suit against one of the last men who saw her in Oak Beach shortly before she disappeared in 2010. The search for the 24-year-old Jersey City sex worker led to the discovery of 10 sets of human remains at Gilgo Beach, apparently dumped by serial killers, authorities said.
Gilbert's body was found more than a year later in Oak Beach. The cause of her death has not been officially determined.
John Ray, the Miller Place attorney who represents Gilbert's family, said he suspects Suffolk police has fought so hard for months to suppress the 23-minute recording because there must be something that reveals who she was with before going missing.
"We hope to find out who was with her before she disappeared," Ray said.
In the decision, Berland said he found the county's resistance to turning over the recording — the county said it was part of an open homicide investigation — to be unpersuasive. Berland wrote that "no criminal prosecution is pending nor, so far as can be discerned from the police department's bare assertions, is it anticipated that a criminal prosecution will be brought within any time frame that the police department is willing or able to articulate."
Berland first ordered the recording turned over in March, but the county appealed.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the department planned to appeal the court’s order again.
“We are in the process of reviewing that decision and plan to appeal to preserve the integrity of the investigation,” Hart said.
The county attorney's office, which represents the police, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ray is seeking the information as part of a suit against Dr. C. Peter Hackett, the last person known to have seen Gilbert alive. The suit said Hackett's house in Oak Beach was a refuge for wayward girls and alleged he took her in, improperly gave her narcotic drugs to calm her, then let her leave in a helpless state.
Hackett has denied the allegation, and much of the lawsuit was dismissed because of statute-of-limitations issues.
With Robert Brodsky