Shannan Gilbert Family Attorney Links Former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke to Gilgo Beach Killings - NBC New York

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Shannan Gilbert Family Attorney Links Former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke to Gilgo Beach Killings

Lawyer John Ray says statements made by a Long Island escort move former police chief James Burke "into the circle of suspects;" an attorney for Burke slammed the allegations as "outrageous"

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    The attorney for the family of Shannan Gilbert, the missing New Jersey escort whose 2010 disappearance led to the discoveries of nearly a dozen sets of remains along a Long Island beach, alleged in a bombshell news briefing Thursday that Suffolk County's disgraced former police commissioner may be connected to the victims. (Published Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016)

    What to Know

    • No suspects have been named in the ongoing investigation into the killer or killers of nearly a dozen people, many of them escorts

    • Leanne, the woman who alleged she had rough sex, says she came forward because she could've been one of the victims

    • All of the bodies were discovered as police searched for Shannan Gilbert, an escort from New Jersey who vanished in Oak Beach in 2010

    The attorney for the family of Shannan Gilbert, the missing New Jersey escort whose 2010 disappearance led to the discoveries of nearly a dozen sets of remains along a Long Island beach, alleged in a bombshell news briefing Thursday that Suffolk County's disgraced former police chief may be connected to the victims. 

    Attorney John Ray brought forth a Long Island escort who said she had an aggressive sexual encounter with ex-police chief James Burke in a house near where several bodies linked to the serial killer investigation were found.

    The woman, who asked only to be referred to as "Leanne," said that she was choked and forced into rough oral sex with Burke in a bathroom during a house party on Oak Beach where alcohol and cocaine were served. It was about a year after Gilbert had gone missing in the neighborhood, but before the remains of multiple escorts were found along a quiet strip of Ocean Parkway.

    Police have named no suspects in their ongoing Gilgo investigation.

    Leanne, who wasn't a prostitute at the time she says she had sex with Burke, said Burke had trouble reaching a climax during the encounter and called her a "bad whore" before getting so aggressive with her that she had tears in her eyes. Afterward, he threw several crumpled-up $100 bills at her and left.

    "(I felt) dehumanized, but I thought 'Whoa, I didn't know I could make that money for 15 minutes of not doing much,'" she said. 

    Ray said that Leanne's allegations move Burke, who is currently serving a 4-year sentence for attacking a man arrested on suspicion of breaking into his department-issued SUV, "into the circle of suspects" in the Gilgo slayings. 

    "I say it brings a direct connection between Burke and those poor dead victims lying along Ocean Parkway," he said.

    Burke's attorney, Joseph Conway, said in a statement that Ray's allegations were "completely outrageous." 

    "Today’s claims alleging events of almost five and one half years ago smacks more as tabloid journalism than credible news," Conway said. "Today’s alleged witness and her attorney know full well that any credible witness and any credible information should be provided to the proper Law Enforcement officials and not done via a press conference. All of the allegations raised today are false and slanderous." 

    "While he has admitted to his crime involving violation of civil rights and governmental obstruction there is absolutely not one shred of evidence linking him to the Gilgo beach case," Conway added. "To think otherwise is preposterous."

    Ray, who has represented Gilbert's family for several years, said he would like to question Burke about the case. He also accused Burke of trying to keep other law enforcement agencies from investigating the case.

    "I believe James Burke was instrumental in avoiding other agencies in the investigation," he said. 

    He also said he'd be willing to give police and the FBI evidence he has collected in the case, and that Leanne would be willing to take a polygraph exam to confirm her account. 

    Leanne said that she decided to come forward because she thinks she could have been one of the victims found in the dunes on Oak Island.

    "That could have been my grave," she said. "This is bigger than me."

    The bombshell accusation comes a day after a new DNA analysis has given more clues to detectives investigating the suspected string of serial killings on Long Island.

    The analysis, posted on a federal database this week, shows that a torso found stuffed inside a rubber bin at a state park in 1997 belongs to the same female victim whose skeletal remains were discovered, along with the remains of her young child, many miles away near a Long Island beach highway in 2011.

    The link between the body in the park and the so-called Gilgo Beach serial killer case is the first development in the vexing murder mystery in years. As they have been for years, police on Wednesday remained mum about the investigation, saying they could not discuss an ongoing probe.

    It was six years ago this week that a K-9 officer and his cadaver dog on a training mission searching for Gilbert happened upon what would become the first of 11 sets of human remains.

    Human remains of eight women, a man and the toddler were found strewn along several miles of thicket adjacent to the parkway. 

    Gilbert's remains were found several miles away near a private beach community a year after the first discovery of bodies in 2010, but police insist her death is not connected to the others. Ray and Gilbert's family have said they think she was also a victim of the killer or killers.

    Last year, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the FBI would be joining the investigation and agents were working to develop a profile of a possible suspect. The FBI previously assisted with a search for victims shortly after the bodies were found but had not directly participated in the investigation until last year, Sini has said.

    Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke as a "police commissioner." The story has been corrected.

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