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Search for clues puts divers back in water

Marine units resume the search for Shannan Gilbert

Marine units resume the search for Shannan Gilbert in the Oak Beach community where she was last seen alive using metal detectors and a rake on April 20, 2011. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk police divers returned Wednesday to the water around the South Shore community where a Jersey City woman went missing a year ago to look for her remains or other clues, officials said.

Using rakes and metal detectors, Marine Bureau divers in rubber suits worked around docks and jetties in depths up to 6 feet, within 60 or so feet of the shore.

The search area, on the south side of Oak Beach, is a few hundred yards from where Shannan Gilbert, 24, was last seen May 1 near the entrance to the gated community.

Wednesday's ocean search came days after police had examined waters on the bay side of the barrier island.

Suffolk police Deputy Insp. Harold Jantzen of the Marine Bureau said water canvasses on the north side of the island last week were done because of "our interest in the area.

"We know something occurred around here, so that's why we are here," said Jantzen, referring to Wednesday's search.

Jantzen said no specific new information triggered Wednesday's search, which was done at the request of detectives. Authorities had last searched the ocean area in January.

Nothing notable was found, and police do not expect to return Thursday.

Last week, police divers concentrated on Hemlock Cove in the Great South Bay to the west of Oak Beach. Nothing of potential evidentiary value was found during the grid-by-grid search of shallow water, police said.

The search for Gilbert, who authorities said worked as a prostitute and ran off while visiting a client in Oak Beach, led to the discovery of four burlap-wrapped skeletons in Gilgo Beach in December.

Police believe they are the victims of a serial killer targeting young prostitutes. None has proved to be Gilbert.

In March and earlier this month, Suffolk police recovered four more sets of remains, including a young child wrapped in a blanket and a head in a plastic bag, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. Another set of remains showed signs of dismemberment. Gilbert has also been excluded from those finds.

On April 11, state and Nassau police found a plastic bag of bones and, separately, a human skull. The skull is likely of a woman, according to sources, but appears too old to be Gilbert.

Only the first four Suffolk victims have been identified.

Genetic analysis is under way on the most recent discoveries in both counties.

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