5:00 AM, MAY 2010, LONG ISLAND—sex worker Shannan Gilbert, while in her client’s home, called 9-1-1 and told the operator, “They’re trying to kill me.” Joseph Brewer, the client, then asked her driver to help get her out of his house, but she frantically fled from both men and knocked on nearby neighbors’ doors, screaming, and pleading for help. The police were called, but when they arrived, Gilbert had already vanished into the night.
The Unsolved Mystery of the Long Island Serial Killer
Police detective John Mallia was training his cadaver police dog in December 2010, when the dog discovered a burlap sack buried down in the marshes of Gilgo Beach. Inside the sack were the remains of a woman, but it was not Shannon Gilbert. In the same month, a search of the area turned up three more bodies. Suffolk County police commissioner Richard Dormer said, “Four bodies found in the same location pretty much speaks for itself. It’s more than a coincidence. We could have a serial killer.”
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Police and detectives from Nassau County, Suffolk County, and the New York State Police returned to the area and worked together to search for more victims from March till April of 2011. This led to the discovery of the remains of six more victims, which brought the potential total number of victims found since December to ten all in all. The search also produced the body of a trans woman found with teeth missing from her skull, a female toddler wearing hoop earrings, and unconfirmed suspicions about as many as seven other female victims who have never been verified by police as being part of the same killer’s spree. All the adults who have been identified were sex workers.
The Long Island Serial Killer emerged as early as 1996, although no one knew it back then. Police Commissioner Dormer said a couple found two severed female legs in 1996, which were wrapped in a garbage bag that year while taking a stroll at a beach spot on Fire Island. When the bodies were discovered in Ocean Parkway in December 2010, a cop involved in the 1996 investigation called the police to recommend a DNA test, which matched the legs from 1996 to a victim of the Long Island serial killer.
Shannan Gilbert’s corpse, by the way, had only been found in December 2011, a year after she went missing.
The most recent possible victim was a 31-year-old woman of Yugoslavian origin named Natasha Jugo. It was already 2013 when Jugo drove her Toyota Prius some 40 minutes from Queens to Ocean Parkway at four in the morning for unknown reasons. Much like Shannan Gilbert, she disappeared into nothing, leaving her wallet and clothing behind. That June, three months after she vanished, a group of beachgoers spotted Jugo’s lifeless body floating in the sea.
Identity of the Killer
The news media was quick to label the murderer as the “Long Island serial killer,” which many refer to by the acronym LISK. In June 2011, Suffolk County police raised the reward from $5,000 to $25,000 (the largest ever offered in the county’s history) for information leading to an arrest in the Long Island murders.
There has been much speculation in the media concerning the identity of the killer. It has been suggested that the serial killer is most likely a white male in his mid-20s to mid-40s, who is very familiar with the South Shore of Long Island and has access to burlap sacks, which he uses to contain the bodies. He may have a detailed knowledge of law enforcement techniques and perhaps even ties to law enforcement, which have thus far helped him avoid detection.
On May 2011, authorities presumed that two of the newest sets of remains might be the work of a second killer. However, in November 2011, the police announced their belief that one person is responsible for all ten deaths and that they did not believe the case of Shannan Gilbert was related.
Thomas Spota, Suffolk County district attorney, said, “It is clear that the area in and around Gilgo Beach has been used to discard human remains for some period of time.”
Until now, the community of online sleuths are still devoted to solving this mystery.