Long Island Serial Killer: ‘There is evidence’ possible victim ‘died of strangulation’ rather than an accident

The Gilbert family is also calling on Suffolk County Lt. Kevin Beyrer to resign from his position

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New York police last week announced that the 2010 death of Shannan Gilbert — whose disappearance launched an investigation that unveiled a suspected serial killer dumping bodies along Long Island's Ocean Parkway — appears to have been accidental.

But Gilbert family attorney John Ray thinks otherwise, based on an autopsy report from Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner of the City of New York and a forensic psychologist who has investigated a number of high-profile deaths, that suggested strangulation.

"There is not a scintilla of evidence that she died of an accident, and even their own medical examiner said so," Ray told Fox News Digital of Gilbert’s killing. "But there is evidence that she died of strangulation. And from that, they drew the conclusion that she died a tragic, tragic accident with no evidence for that whatsoever."

Shannan Gilbert's disappearance prompted a search of the area that uncovered a string of victims.

Shannan Gilbert's disappearance prompted a search of the area that uncovered a string of victims. (Courtesy of Shannan Gilbert's family/Suffolk County Police Department)

The Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) said on May 13 that Gilbert’s cause of death was "undetermined" and that other evidence suggested her death was an accident. Police found her body south of the parkway.

The Gilbert family is also calling on Lt. Kevin Beyrer, SCPD's head of homicide, to resign from his position as head of homicides at the police department.

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"He's the only holdout from the Burke days still involved" in the 12-year-old case, Ray said, adding that he is hopeful, however, Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner Rodney Harrison will vigorously pursue the truth in the ongoing investigation into Gilbert's death. 

Shannan Gilbert's disappearance prompted a search of the area that uncovered a string of victims.

Shannan Gilbert's disappearance prompted a search of the area that uncovered a string of victims. (Courtesy of Shannan Gilbert's family/Suffolk County Police Department)

Sherre Gilbert, Shannan's sister, said during a Tuesday press conference that she feels like police "dropped the ball from the beginning," as FOX 5 New York first reported.

"They didn't allow the FBI come in. I think we definitely need somebody independently to review this case," she said.

Gilbert, a 24-year-old escort selling her services over Craigslist, ran away from a client's house in Oak Beach, New York, fled her waiting driver and —  in a panic —  knocked on several neighbor's doors before she went missing. 

As police searched the area, east of Gilgo Beach, for her, they found numerous other bodies on the north side of Long Island. The first belonged to Melissa Barthelemy, on Dec. 11, 2010. Gilbert’s wasn't recovered until Dec. 13, 2011, two days after investigators found her purse and cellphone a quarter-mile away. At least 10 of the deaths have been attributed to one or more serial killers in a case that remains unsolved to this day.

Police found more than 10 bodies in the area after beginning their search for Shannan Gilbert in 2010.

Police found more than 10 bodies in the area after beginning their search for Shannan Gilbert in 2010. (Suffolk County Police Department)

She was also the only one of the victims, most of whom authorities say were sex workers, who had a chance to dial 911 before she died. Police had previously revealed she had a history of mental illness and substance abuse and sometimes became disoriented and irrational. 

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"But here is a sex worker who is a stone's throw away from a whole school of sex workers dead along Ocean Parkway," Ray said. "She calls 911 for 23 minutes. How many sex workers call in the police? And she says people are about to kill her."

"If this were a tragic accident, what's the problem? Why did they hold it back?" Ray said. "The answer is something's very wrong with the police department. Something is amiss here and has to be investigated."

Counter-clockwise from left: Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, Megan Waterman, 22 and Melissa Barthelemy, 24, disappeared after meeting with a client on Craigslist. The remains of the women were found in December 2010 at Gilgo Beach on Long Island. 

Counter-clockwise from left: Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, Megan Waterman, 22 and Melissa Barthelemy, 24, disappeared after meeting with a client on Craigslist. The remains of the women were found in December 2010 at Gilgo Beach on Long Island.  (Suffolk County Police Department)

The attorney's comments come after SCPD released three previously confidential 911 calls involving Gilbert on May 13.

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"There’s somebody after me," she says repeatedly to the 911 operator in a 23-minute call just made public Friday. The dispatcher asks where she is. She says she doesn’t know.

Police released two other calls as well, from neighbors whose doors Gilbert knocked on as she ran from the client's home and then away from her driver. One man let her inside and asked if she was OK. She fled again. Another told the dispatcher she wasn't going to let a stranger in because she had her elderly mother inside.

Shannan Gilbert's disappearance prompted a search of the area that uncovered a string of victims.

Shannan Gilbert's disappearance prompted a search of the area that uncovered a string of victims. (Courtesy of Shannan Gilbert's family/Suffolk County Police Department)

"Releasing the Shannan Gilbert 911 calls will not hinder this investigation," Harrison told reporters Friday. "I encourage the public to listen to the entire call."

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Since Harrison took the commissioner job on New Year’s Eve, he has refocused the cold case investigation, forming a multi-agency task force. Last month, the department released surveillance videos showing another victim, Megan Waterman, in a hotel lobby in 2010, hoping to churn up more tips.

While Gilbert's death is now believed to have been an accident, Harrison said on May 13 that he was still seeking tips from the public.

"It’s a horrible accident," he said. "It’s tragic. But we’re still open to information that could help us come to a stronger conclusion."