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Long IslandSuffolk

More uncertainty for missing woman's kin

Sarra Gilbert, 22, sister of Shannan Gilbert, talks

Sarra Gilbert, 22, sister of Shannan Gilbert, talks at her home in Ellenville. (March 30, 2011) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

ELLENVILLE, N.Y. -- It'll be yet another month of anxiety for Shannan Gilbert's family.

Another month of waiting to learn whether skeletal remains found Tuesday night at a Suffolk beach end an ordeal that began last May.

And if tests can't link the missing 24-year-old Jersey City woman to the remains, their wait will go on.

"If it is her, I would be happy because I feel like I have closure," said Gilbert's younger sister, Sarra Gilbert, 22, of upstate Ellenville. "I just can't imagine how it is -- 20 years later and not know."

Shannan Gilbert disappeared May 1. She was last seen in Oak Beach, and her disappearance triggered a search in December that led to the discovery of four bodies at Gilgo Beach, not far from where the human remains were found Tuesday.

All of the women had been working as prostitutes and they disappeared between July 2007 and last September. Gilbert, who police and family have said worked as a prostitute, disappeared after visiting the home of a man, later cleared, who had contacted her through the Craigslist website.

"I fear that they [the remains] are hers now because she was the only person in that area," said another sister, Sherre Gilbert, 23, also of Ellenville. "Where else could she be? That's the part I don't understand. Why hasn't anyone come forth with any information? Where is she? I don't understand how they haven't discovered her yet."

Sherre Gilbert said she received a call from a Suffolk detective Wednesday morning alerting her to the discovery of the fifth set of remains. The call did little to curb her anxiety.

"I am speechless, I guess," she said.

Gilbert said the grisly discovery raised new issues for the family. They're now left wondering whether police "didn't search the area enough" in December or whether the killer is taunting the family and authorities by placing the body on the beach after December's searches.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer at a news conference Wednesday said the area where the latest remains were found Tuesday is thick with brush and difficult to traverse.

"It's tough to get through, and it is possible to miss something," he said.

Detectives told the family it could be several more weeks, possibly months, before a positive identification is made.

"I want her to come home -- whether she's not with us anymore or she is OK," said Sherre Gilbert. "Either way, I want to find her."

The waiting, the anxiety go on.

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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