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Wednesday marks anniversary of Shannan Gilbert's disappearance

A makeshift memorial for a victim in the

A makeshift memorial for a victim in the Gilgo Beach murders stands along Ocean parkway. (April 30, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Three years ago Wednesday, Shannan Gilbert, a prostitute from Jersey City, vanished in Oak Beach.

Her case led authorities to discover 10 sets of remains along Ocean Parkway before finding Gilbert's body in December 2011. But what prompted her disappearance -- and the details surrounding her death -- remains a mystery that her mother still seeks to unravel.

"Time may pass and she's not been with us but that doesn't mean that we will . . . forget," said Mari Gilbert of upstate Ellenville. She said she's had no updates on her daughter's case for almost a year.

"I think they don't care," said Gilbert, who believes authorities aren't trying hard to solve her daughter's case because she was a prostitute. "At the end of the day, they were all loved, and they are all missed."

The victims -- first discovered in Gilgo Beach -- led to one of the biggest homicide cases in Suffolk County police history. But the department has not commented on the progress of its investigation, if any, since new leadership took over in 2012.

"We are not commenting further at this time on the Gilgo investigation until/unless we have some additional information pertaining to the investigation that serves the investigation or the public by its release," said a statement yesterday.

The Gilgo killings gained worldwide attention, inspiring an Off-Broadway play last year titled "Killing Time" and a book written by New York Magazine contributing writer Robert Kolker called "Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery" due out in July. But except for one tangential federal arrest unrelated to the killings, they remain, as the book title says, unsolved.

Police recently returned to the scene. In March, a missing Queens Village woman's car was found abandoned not far from where the first four bodies were found. Nassau and New York City police found only personal effects. Authorities said the case of Natasha Jugo, 31, was not tied to the Gilgo killings.

Gilbert disappeared May 1, 2010. The 24-year-old vanished in the gated community of Oak Beach after being summoned by a client, Joseph Brewer, who has since been eliminated as a suspect. Investigators said she placed a frantic 911 call for help in the early morning hours, knocked on a couple of neighbors' doors and wasn't heard from again. The 911 tapes have not been released.

Under mounting pressure from Gilbert's family, the search for her led authorities to find 10 other bodies along Ocean Parkway, including that of a toddler, an Asian man dressed in women's clothing, and body parts belonging to remains found in Manorville in 2000 and 2003. Half of the remains found along Ocean Parkway during the searches have been identified. All five were young women working as prostitutes.

Ironically, Gilbert's body was the last one to be found. She was discovered in Oak Beach. The cause of death is undetermined.

Last November, Mari Gilbert filed a wrongful-death suit in State Supreme Court in Suffolk against Dr. C. Peter Hackett, formerly of Oak Beach and now of Fort Myers, Fla., claiming he was the last man known to have seen her alive. Her attorney, John Ray, said Hackett has asked a judge to dismiss the case. Hackett has not commented on the suit.

The pending suit claims he drugged her daughter against her will and let her leave in a helpless condition.

Mari Gilbert believes her daughter was murdered and that her death is linked to the first four women found near Gilgo Beach. Authorities have said they do not believe they are connected. "I'm not going to stop until I find out exactly who killed Shannan," she said Monday.

Gilbert's body is at the Suffolk County medical examiner's office per her mother's request while she tries to raise $15,000 for an autopsy by an independent forensic examiner.

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