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Officials: New Gilgo remains not Gilbert's

Police search Cedar Beach on April 5, 2011.

Police search Cedar Beach on April 5, 2011. Credit: James Carbone

Shannan Gilbert, the Jersey City woman last seen alive 11 months ago, is not among the three sets of human remains discovered this week in the Gilgo Beach area, Suffolk authorities said Tuesday.

The announcement came as police continued to scour the South Shore barrier island where eight sets of remains have been uncovered. No more were found Tuesday.

Police will continue the search Wednesday. "We won't stop searching until we find Shannan Gilbert," a police spokeswoman said.

For a second day, teams of officers working with cadaver dogs along Ocean Parkway tramped through brambles and peeled back branches, this time amid gusts, rain and temperatures in the 40s. Precipitation worsened already poor visibility: The brambles at places rise to eye level, forming a nearly impenetrable barrier.

Occasionally, a blue figure would emerge only to disappear into the wilderness almost instantly with just two steps. Officers also drove through Oak Beach, where Gilbert was last seen.

Insp. Stuart Cameron of the Special Patrol Bureau called it a "pretty exhaustive search." By Tuesday night, police had covered about half the planned search area, a 71/2-mile stretch from Oak Beach to the Nassau County border.

On March 29, police doing a re-canvass of previously searched areas found a fifth set of decomposed remains. Like the skeletons of four women discovered in Gilgo Beach in December, it was a short distance from the north edge of the parkway. Police were just hours into a greatly expanded search Monday when they uncovered three more decomposed bodies.

The county medical examiner has not released any information on age ranges, gender or cause of death for the four recently found remains. All are now with a forensic anthropologist at the New York City medical examiner's office for DNA analysis, police said Tuesday.

The Gilbert family said that the Suffolk County homicide detective who called Tuesday did not say how Shannan had been ruled out from the remains.

"He didn't say how, but I am assuming it's her jaw," said Gilbert's sister, Sherre, of upstate Ellenville. Gilbert has metal in her jaw, her family said, the result of surgery after a boyfriend punched her.

Police said the Suffolk medical examiner did not disclose how the exclusion was made.

Robert Creighton, a former Suffolk County police commissioner, said he believed the size of the investigation was unprecedented in the county.

"I have no recollection of anything as complex as this or as large as this," he said. The nearest comparison, he said, was the Ronald DeFeo murders in Amityville in 1975. "The difference was, that was all in one place and all at one time."

Jay Salpeter, a former NYPD homicide detective who is now a private investigator based in Great Neck, said the case is unique not only for Long Island, but also anywhere.

"Any time you have an abundance of bodies found in the same vicinity, it's very unusual," said Salpeter, who has worked on more than 100 homicides. "If you look at other serial killers, most times bodies are left in different locations and even different states. This is unique because the killer's using this [Gilgo Beach] as a dumping ground."

The westbound lanes of Ocean Parkway will remain closed from the Captree Bridge to the Nassau County line Wednesday. Residents of Gilgo Beach, West Gilgo Beach, Oak Beach, Oak Island and Cedar Beach will need identification to reach their homes via the Robert Moses Causeway, Suffolk police said.

Gilbert was last seen alive in Oak Beach on May 1, 2010.

The four identified victims are Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx; Megan Waterman, 25, of Scarborough, Maine; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn., and Amber Costello, 27, of North Babylon. Like Gilbert, all worked as prostitutes and went missing while meeting clients.

Investigators believe the four women found in December were killed elsewhere and their bodies driven to the isolated beach area for disposal.

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