In spite of police efforts to keep them sealed, a Suffolk County, New York judge has ordered the release of calls made to police by a missing woman, the search for whom led to the discovery of several alleged victims of an unidentified serial killer — or killers — thought to be from Long Island.
State Supreme Court Justice Sanford Neil Berland has given the county’s police department 20 days to hand over both the recordings and transcripts of a 911 call Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker from Jersey City, made to police in 2010, shortly before she vanished, according to Newsday.
The calls will be turned over to attorneys representing Gilbert’s estate in a suit filed against Dr. C. Peter Hackett, one of the last men who saw her before she disappeared.
That year, 10 sets of human remains were uncovered at Gilgo Beach as a result of police efforts to locate Gilbert, Newsday reports. Many of the victims are believed to have also been sex workers.
Gilbert’s body, meanwhile, was found a year later. While the cause of her death has not been officially determined, Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who was hired by Gilbert’s family to conduct an independent autopsy, concluded that evidence gleaned from the corpse was “consistent with homicidal strangulation,” according to according to PIX11.
It is unclear if one person or many are responsible for murdering the women, but many believe the killings may be the work of a single serial killer, sometimes called the Gilgo Beach Killer or Long Island Ripper — so named because of his penchant for victimizing prostitutes like fellow unidentified serial killer Jack The Ripper.
John Ray, the attorney representing Gilbert's family, said he believes police have attempted to keep the calls sealed as part of the ongoing investigation into the deaths.
"We have waited three years for this result. Several judges have had the case," Ray said in a statement Thursday, according to NBC 4 New York. "We have been relentless in our pursuit of the murderers. We will continue to drive forward in pursuit of everyone involved in the murders."
Judge Berland did not find a compelling reason for the calls to remain private.
"No criminal prosecution is pending nor, so far as can be discerned from the police department's bare assertions, is it anticipated that a criminal prosecution will be brought within any time frame that the police department is willing or able to articulate," he wrote, Newsday reports.
The county has appealed the decision to release the calls at least once, while police have not offered a comment on the proceedings pertaining to the call.
The calls received by police in 2010 had Gilbert begging for her life.
“They’re trying to kill me!” she screamed on the phone, according to PIX11.
It remains unclear who Gilbert may have been referring to; her last escorting job prior to her disappearance was at a home in Oak Beach.
Dr. C. Peter Hackett's home is believed by police to have functioned as a home for several young female sex workers, where Gilbert allegedly sought refuge and was provided drugs.
Hackett, however, has denied any involvement with Gilbert.
Some investigators believe she may have drowned while running away from the Oak Beach client, according to NBC.
Gilbert's mother, Mari, had urged police to reopen her daughter's case as a homicide investigation. But Mari Gilbert was stabbed to death by her other daughter, Sarra Gilbert, in 2016, NBC News reports.
[Photo: Associated Press]
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