What really happened to Shannan Gilbert, the woman who sparked an investigation into the Long Island serial killer? According to her sister, Sherre Gilbert, she believes her sibling was murdered by the still-unidentified mass killer after her body was found in 2011.
“Despite Shannan being the impetus of the investigation into a suspected serial killer, law enforcement has resisted saying her death is related to the other victims, leaving Shannan’s family fighting for answers to this day,” Dr. Mehmet Oz said on the Thursday, December 10, episode of The Dr. Oz Show.
“Joining us now is Shannan Gilbert’s sister, Sherre. Sherre, law enforcement did not think your sister’s death was related to this killer, but you think it’s possible. Why is that?” he asked.
“I think it's a possibility just because Shannan, who was from New Jersey was found there in Long Island and that's a coincidence,” Sherre replied. “She was considered an escort along with the other women that were found there and she was meeting a John that night, so there's a lot of coincidences to me that would make me think that she was definitely a victim of the Long Island serial killer.”
In 2010, Shannan went missing after she called 911, and one year later, her body was found in Oak Beach, Long Island, along with ten other bodies at Gilgo Beach, which were apparently dumped there by a serial killer. One of the suspects/persons of interest for the Long Island serial killer is a man by the name of John Bittrolff, a Suffolk county resident reportedly convicted of murdering two prostitutes.
Aerial view of Gilgo Beach Long Island, NY.
At first, they thought Shannan drowned, but years later, an autopsy revealed she may have been murdered. Most recently, as of this January, authorities still believe Shannan’s death was not connected to the other women found in the swamp area.
Shannan had struggled with depression and was bipolar, CBS News reported at the time. The day she went missing, she called 911 from one of her client’s homes at 4:51 a.m. “They’re trying to kill me,” she said on the call but didn’t note her location. Shannan’s driver, Michael Pak, and her client, Joseph Brewer, were heard in the background of the call. Brewer told Shannan to leave his home.
Shannan went to neighbor Gus Colletti’s home at 5 a.m., where he heard her yelling “help,” but she wouldn’t answer his questions. He called 911, and instead of waiting inside his home, she fled and hid under his boat outside, while her driver drove slowly outside.
Later on, she went to another neighbor’s home at 5:21 a.m. and knocked on her door. Barbara Brennan called 911, but Shannan ran away, which was the last time anyone heard from her.
In January, police released a photo of a belt, which was potentially handled by the suspect. "It wasn't groundbreaking at all, it was a path that was thrown to the public by the police department, and I say that because when they showed the initials, they never showed the belt, they never described the belt,” John Ray, the attorney for the estate of Shannan, said on the show about the new evidence.
“They wouldn't tell us whether it was a male or a female belt, whether it was upside down or right side up. Most belts are made for right-handers, so you can figure that out,” he added. “We don't know the size of the items themselves, and they never produced the belt. I have a real suspicion that they don't have it anymore and they have only photographs, which is what they released. If they do have it, they haven't been able to produce any DNA testing on it after all these years. They've had it for nine years and now they suddenly reveal it.”
In November, a Suffolk County judge denied the public release of Shannan's 911 calls. “I don’t see where public disclosure … is warranted here, or what it would advance in terms of your prosecution of your client’s claim, especially in the face of the police department taking the position that it could have a negative effect on their work,” State Supreme Court Justice Sanford Berland said.
“The remaining sisters want to hear Shannan’s voice,” Ray argued. “They loved Shannan. These are her last words. Like any family, they want to hear her. They want to hear their sister.”