A New Jersey woman who disappeared at Oak Beach in May is not among the four female bodies found dumped in Gilgo Beach, Suffolk authorities said Thursday, complicating the work of investigators desperate for leads in their search for a potential serial killer.
Authorities concluded Thursday from the medical records of Shannan Gilbert, 24, of Jersey City, that she couldn't be one of the four whose badly decomposed remains were found in the brush off Ocean Parkway in the past week. None of the women have been identified.
Friday, search teams and cadaver-sniffing dogs that have combed the underbrush and woods of Jones Beach Island will move west into Nassau County in a sweep for more human remains and evidence, sources said. As his department's investigation continued, Police Commissioner Richard Dormer urged the public to remain calm.
"I don't want anyone to think we have a Jack the Ripper running around Suffolk County with blood dripping from a knife," Dormer said at a Hauppauge news conference. "This is an anomaly. Don't worry about this."
Was a central figure
Gilbert had been a central figure in the probe since a police officer and a dog happened upon a set of skeletal remains while investigating her missing-person case.
Excluding Gilbert poses a new challenge to detectives for whom a positive identification would have established a victim and clearer road forward to solve the case. It also upended a key investigative theory: that prostitutes were targeted.
Police have taken DNA samples in Maine from the family of another missing prostitute, Megan Waterman, 22, of Maine, who disappeared June 6 after meeting a client at a Hauppauge hotel, her family and police have said. Her family said Thursday night they have not been told by Suffolk if one of the bodies is Waterman's. Her mother, Lorraine Ela, of South Portland, Maine, said she wanted to believe her daughter is alive. But, she said, "I don't want to get my hopes up until the DNA comes back."
Thursday, search teams and dogs tramped through brush, woods and beaches along a desolate 10-mile stretch of Ocean Parkway between Tobay Beach and the Robert Moses Causeway, looking for clues. With a snowstorm possible this weekend, but with clear weather Thursday, officers accelerated the effort and covered more ground than expected.
No specific leads prompted the search, Dormer said. Police simply "want to make sure we don't miss anything," he said.
Thursday, Nassau police began reviewing missing-persons cases and will help Suffolk and the New York State Police in their search Friday, which sources said will move west over environmentally sensitive land toward Jones Beach. Road signs Thursday night said Ocean Parkway will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Suffolk medical examiner Yvonne Milewski said Thursday the bodies may never be identified if family or dental records don't match the DNA evidence taken from the bones.
The remains are all now at the New York City medical examiner's office, where NYPD forensic scientists are to extract DNA for matching against family samples and federal databases, which could take a month, officials said. A cause-of-death determination may take weeks, Milewski said.
"At this point, these are true unknowns to me," she said.
Gilbert probe to continue
Police said the probe into Gilbert's disappearance will continue. Investigators say they have interviewed, taken a vehicle from and searched the house of Joseph Brewer, 46, of Oak Beach, who said he summoned Gilbert to his house after contacting her on Craigslist. Police say Brewer is cooperating fully.
Brewer has said he had nothing to do with Gilbert's disappearance. He did not respond to messages Thursday. "I'm innocent in this case, so I have truth on my side," Brewer told 1010 WINS radio Thursday.
"It's appropriate we talk to a lot of people," Dormer said, adding: "We're on top of this investigation."
Questions remain about the police response to a frantic 911 call from Gilbert as she left Brewer's home. The New York State Police did not send a patrol car when she called. Gilbert - who only said she was "near Jones Beach" - was transferred to them, said a State Police spokesman, Trooper Frank Bandiero.
The dispatcher "had no idea where this woman was," Bandiero said. "We spoke with her, the call was lost, and she never called back."
Bandiero did not respond Thursday to a request for a recording of the 911 call.
A Suffolk marine unit officer responded about a half-hour after a 5:22 a.m. 911 call from an Oak Beach neighbor of Brewer's, said the neighbor, Gustav Coletti, 75. Police have not explained why it took so long. Suffolk Deputy Insp. Gerard McCarthy said Wednesday: "There's nothing to indicate she's a victim of a crime on those calls."
With Anthony M. DeStefano, Chau Lam, Sophia Chang, Matthew Chayes and
Emily C. Dooley