CrimeCon Panel: Expect More Bodies In Long Island Serial Case

Here are five things we learned from CrimeCon 2017 about a case that has baffled police and armchair detectives alike. 

By Matt Muro


1. The Facts

The case of the Long Island Serial Killer began when an escort named Shannan Gilbert placed a call to 911 saying that her life was in danger after meeting a client off Craigslist in May 2010. The call was 23 minutes long, and has never been released by police. Shannan disappeared that same night near Gilgo Beach on New York’s Long Island. In December of that same year, the bodies of four more women—all believed to be escorts—were discovered wrapped in burlap around the same area. Additional bodies have been discovered in subsequent years, and it’s believed the serial killer  (or killers, no one seems to know if it’s the work of a lone psychopath) is responsible for the murders of between 10 and 17 people, all women except for one baby and an Asian male dressed in female clothing. The one thing that is known is that the case has never been solved and that there are no known suspects.

2. Expect More Bodies

The most explosive part of the panel discussion came when Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills, co-executive producers of A&E’s The Killing Season, relayed a conversation they had with former detective Richard Dormer, who said something haunting after the two had already wrapped up their interview. 

“There’s one thing you didn’t ask me?” Dormer had said as Zeman and Mills were walking away.

“What?” said Zeman.

“Is there any more bodies?” said Dormer. 

Zeman and Mills had both thought Dormer felt certain there were more bodies to be found.

3. Identity of Killer and Conspiracy Theories

Armchair detectives and the media have long speculated on a number of conspiracy theories regarding the Long Island Serial Killer, including that there is a sex ring of wealthy men who hire escorts for sex parties. Some believe the killer is a fisherman and others believe it’s a businessman who commutes from Long Island to New York City.

Zeman said that he didn’t take any conspiracy theories seriously when he began working on The Killing Season. Now, however, he said: “If [detective] James Burke were to be found to be guilty now, I don’t know if I would be surprised.” Panel member Robert Kolker, author of “Lost Girls,” explained that Burke was a Sr. Detective “with a shady past” who had “something to do with keeping the FBI away” from the case.

“Burke didn’t want the FBI to come in because they would find out other illicit things that he was doing,” said Zeman.  According to NBC4, while the family of Shannan Gilbert believed at one time Burke should be a suspect, he has always maintained his innocence and has never been described by police as suspect or a person of interest.

4. It’s the Modern Jack the Ripper Case

All of the panelists, which also included CrimeOnline editor Ellen Killoran, agreed that this is the modern Jack the Ripper case in that the killer has focused his or her attention on prostitutes and his or her identity remains a mystery.

5. Class Issues and a Vulnerable Population

Kolker believes there are issues of class mixed up with this case, citing that the police did not seriously investigate the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert in May of 2005 until four bodies were discovered in the area seven months later. “If Shannan Gilbert would have been the daughter of a judge or a doctor, they would have taken the case more seriously.” Kolker also points out that there is an entire population of people who are extremely vulnerable: escorts. “It’s happening not just because they are working alone, but they are working online.” The class issue only compounds the vulnerability. 

[Pictured above, by Getty Images: Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills]

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