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Family of Shannan Gilbert says goodbye at Amityville burial service

The late Shannan Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, grieves

The late Shannan Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, grieves during funeral services held on March 12, 2015 at Amityville Cemetery. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The New Jersey woman whose disappearance led to the discovery of 10 sets of remains along Ocean Parkway was laid to rest in Amityville Thursday.

Family members and their attorney stood together before a freshly dug grave for Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker who vanished May 1, 2010, after being summoned to a client in Oak Beach.

A Roman Catholic deacon quietly led Gilbert's relatives and attorney John Ray in prayers at the brief, nondenominational service at Amityville Cemetery. Gilbert's sister Sherre Gilbert, 27, of upstate Ellenville, and Ray each said a few words before the service ended.

"I wish we would have done more for her," Sherre Gilbert softly said before briefly stopping to compose herself after she began to cry. "I feel so bad."

Before they left the graveside, the family held a news conference -- Shannan Gilbert's silver coffin and a gray canvas with 13 pictures of the Jersey City woman smiling and hugging friends and relatives a few feet away. The service and burial took place in Amityville instead of upstate after Ray reached out to the Nassau-Suffolk Funeral Directors Association to help cover the costs.

Gilbert's remains were found on Dec. 13, 2011, in a marshy area inside the gated community of Oak Beach. Police said she was last seen fleeing the client's home in a panic.

Among the last people to speak with Gilbert were phone operators as she frantically tried to figure out her location.

A K-9 officer conducting a routine exercise and searching for Gilbert stumbled on a body that eventually led to the discovery of a dumping ground of remains along Ocean Parkway.

Ever since, Gilbert's death and the mystery of who killed the 10 others have confounded investigators. They have said Gilbert's death is not linked to the other victims found, and how she died is still unknown.

At Thursday's news conference, Mari Gilbert, Shannan's mother, said she is not satisfied with the way police have handled the investigation. She said police have not given the family any updates but she remained hopeful something good could come from the death of her daughter. "I was very angry as any parent should be, but as time went by I kind of realized that maybe that was her destiny to help other families," Mari Gilbert said.

Suffolk police spokesman Kevin Fallon said Thursday the department continues to investigate the death of Shannan and the 10 others, but he would not comment on any of the cases.

A December 2011 autopsy on her remains by the Suffolk County medical examiner found the cause or manner of her death to be "undetermined." A pathologist summoned by her family did a second autopsy Monday. Ray, of Miller Place, said it's not clear when the results of that autopsy will come back.

"We're trying to find the true killer of Shannan," Ray said Monday night after the second autopsy. "There will be no finality in Shannan's mother's mind until this murderer is caught."

Mari Gilbert said she's not received any of her daughter's belongings from the Suffolk medical examiner's office but she will always keep her oldest child's memory close. "No matter who you are and what you do, you're still a person. And you still have someone who loves you."

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