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'Why Were They Telling Lies?' After Years Of Fighting, Shannan Gilbert's Lawyer Hears 911 Tapes Of Night She Vanished

John Ray told Oxygen.com that the recently released 911 calls connected to Shannan Gilbert's disappearance contradict previous statements made by an investigator who described the calls' contents.

By Gina Tron
The Long Island Serial Killer Case, Explained

The lawyer who represents the estate of Shannan Gilbert has now listened to the 911 calls related to her disappearance and he claims that they contradict a previous investigator’s analysis of them.

A New York Appellate Division court ruled last week that the Suffolk County Police Department must release 911 calls related to the disappearance of Gilbert, whose death may be connected to the Gilgo Beach serial killings on Long Island, to her estate. Gilbert estate lawyer John Ray has been fighting to get the calls released for three and a half years.

Gilbert, 24, had made a panicked call to 911 on May 1, 2010 while seeing a client out on Oak Beach, Long Island. She was a sex worker, who would sometimes find her clients on Craigslist. Ray previously told Oxygen.com that three other 911 calls were made that night. One call was from Gilbert's client Joseph Brewer and two were from neighbors. After she disappeared, police's search for her led to the grim discovery that a serial killer had been dumping bodies along the area. Ten sets of remains in the area have been attributed to an unknown killer, or killers, known as the "Long Island Serial Killer," the "Gilgo Beach Killer," and the "Craigslist Ripper" because many of the women found dead had advertised sex work on Craigslist.

Gilbert’s skeletal remains were discovered in a marsh in Oak Beach on Dec. 13, 2011. 

While Ray told Oxygen.com he is under strict court-implemented orders not to speak about the contents of the 911 tapes he has received, he said he has now listened to them and calls them “extremely important and extremely interesting.” He said they reveal "many, many things that nobody knows right now" about the investigation. 

Ray also claims they are full of contradictions. He pointed to a 2012 Newsday letter in which now-retired Suffolk County homicide detective Vincent Stephan, who worked on the Gilbert case, described Gilbert's 911 call as being 22 minutes long.

“It’s not,” Ray said.

He refuted other claims written in the 2012 letter including Stephan’s assertion that Gilbert mentioned she was near Jones Bones and that she was let into a neighbor’s house before running into some reeds. He called the Jones Beach statement “misleading.”

In Stephan’s letter, Stephan wrote that “Gilbert was not about to be murdered” and “her demeanor on the tape was calm. You can hear male voices on the tape, and they are calm. At no time during this call was she desperate.”

Ray claimed, now that he has listened to the tapes, that these elements of Stephan’s analysis are false.

“When you have those kind of statements that are outright false and they are about some very substantial issues on the whole matter, why were they telling lies like this to the public?” Ray told Oxygen.com.

When asked about the alleged inconsistencies between the calls and the 2012 letter, the Suffolk County Police Department told Oxygen.com that “the court has implemented strict parameters to maintain the integrity of this ongoing investigation. We fully expect Mr. Ray to honor the requirement set out in the judge’s order, and as such, the Department will decline to comment further.”

Ray also told Oxygen.com that he was given copies of the original tapes, which he says have been destroyed.

“They [the Suffolk County Police Department] don’t have the originals, it turns out,” Ray said. “They revealed this for the first time after three and a half years of litigation. The state police had the originals and apparently they got destroyed."

He said he didn’t receive any transcripts or analysis of the tapes.

“The court required that they give that to me,” Ray told Oxygen.com. “They now admit that they don’t have them. They never made them. They said they never created transcripts and they never did any add-on analysis of the voices. It’s shocking. For a major investigation, it’s kind of odd.”

Ray said he is going to need technology to decipher some of the audio elements on the tapes.

Shannan Gilbert Pd

Gilbert’s death has not been officially linked to the Gilgo Beach serial killings, but theories have been put forth that her death could be connected. Gilbert was even the main focus of “Lost Girls,” a recent Netflix film which depicted how Gilbert’s family, along with the families of some Gilgo Beach victims, sought justice for their loved ones.

Police have previously claimed that Gilbert may have died of natural causes, with officials theorizing at the time that Shannan may have been the victim of an accidental drowning, according to NBC New York. The Suffolk County Police Department previously told Oxygen.com that a medical examiner has ruled her cause of death as inconclusive.

While she is not officially considered a victim of the Long Island serial killings, she is included on the victim list of the Suffolk County Police Department's site dedicated to the investigation. Ray has long disputed the previous claim of natural death.