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Shannan Gilbert's family files wrongful-death suit

Mari Gilbert, mother of Shannan Gilbert, arrives at

Mari Gilbert, mother of Shannan Gilbert, arrives at Supreme Court in Riverhead with her lawyer, John Ray, where they announced a lawsuit against Dr. Charles Peter Hackett. formerly an Oak Beach resident, on Nov. 15, 2012. Credit: James Carbone

Two and a half years after Shannan Gilbert died in the swamp of Gilgo Beach, her mother has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the last man known to have seen her alive, claiming he drugged her against her will, then let her leave in a helpless condition.

It was the disappearance and search for Gilbert, 24, a prostitute from Jersey City, that led to the discoveries of 10 bodies dumped by Gilgo Beach. Authorities suspect those victims were killed by one or more serial killers. No arrests have been made.

Mari Gilbert, Shannan's mother, filed the suit in State Supreme Court in Suffolk against Dr. C. Peter Hackett, formerly of Oak Beach and now of Fort Myers, Fla. He has been questioned and cleared by police in the case.

But Mari Gilbert and her attorney, John Ray of Miller Place, say Hackett bears at least civil responsibility for her death. Ray said the suit is the result of investigators talking to Hackett's neighbors about what they claim he has told them since Gilbert disappeared on May 1, 2010.

That day, Gilbert made a frantic early-morning 911 call from the home of a client, Joseph Brewer, then pounded on Hackett's door, police have said.

The suit says Hackett claimed his house was a home for wayward girls and took her in, improperly gave her narcotic drugs to calm her, then let her leave in a helpless state, the suit says.

"There is no direct evidence of who killed this lady. But circumstantial evidence can be very strong," Ray said.

A woman who answered the phone at Hackett's home said he would not comment.

The day Shannan Gilbert disappeared, Ray said Hackett called Mari Gilbert to tell her he had been caring for her daughter, who had left, and he asked if she had heard from Shannan.

"Those representations to Mari Gilbert were demonstrably false and there can be only nefarious reasons for telling her that," Ray said.

Gilbert said Thursday that the call was her first inkling that her daughter was in trouble. "I do believe in my heart that Dr. Hackett played a major role in my daughter's death," she said.

Hackett's account resulted in Gilbert's remains not being found until December, the suit says. By then, there wasn't enough forensic evidence to conclude how she died, the medical examiner's office later said.

Ray said he would discuss his findings with police or prosecutors, who declined to comment on the suit Thursday.

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