NBC New York
Investigators returned to a serial killer's beachside burial ground today, looking again for any clues to help them solve the baffling disappearance of a prostitute named Shannan Gilbert and determine the identity of a mass murderer. John Noel reports.
The year-long search for bodies along a desolate stretch of Long Island beach that has already turned up at least 10 sets of remains resumed Monday amid dense fog, and police said no new evidence was found.
Some 35 police officers and three cadaver dogs from Suffolk and Nassau counties and the state police led the search, which covered an area from the Robert Moses Causeway near Captree west to Tobay Beach.
Law enforcement sources tell NBC New York that FBI aerial surveillance of the area over the summer picked up items of interest that officials believed needed more scrutiny.
The search was held off until cold weather helped lessen the thick underbrush, bugs and poison ivy in the area, police said.
Police had said last week that they planned to reopen their search for Shannan Gilbert, a prostitute from New Jersey who went missing in May 2010.
Gilbert disappeared in the area after apparently meeting a client she had booked through Craigslist. Police made the grisly discoveries of other human remains as they were investigating her disappearance.
Police said Monday that the search was not limited to finding Gilbert, but said officers were seeking evidence in the overall investigation.
The decision to resume searching comes as Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer revealed that detectives now think that one person may be responsible for the 10 deaths.
He previously said as many as three killers may be responsible.
Dormer declined to detail reasons for the change in theory, but notes all victims appear linked to the sex trade.
He said last week that Gilbert is likely dead, though he said the circumstances of her disappearance don't match those of the other victims. He indicated that the search for Gilbert's whereabouts was ongoing.
Four of the victims were found close to one another wrapped in burlap sacks off Ocean Parkway last December. They were all prostitutes who disappeared after arranging to meet clients on Craigslist. At least one of the other victims was also identified as a prostitute.
The last of the 10 sets of remains were found in early April. Since then, a $25,000 reward has led to 1,200 tips in the case, but no suspects have been identified since the first body was found on Dec. 11.
Police have declined to comment on suspects.
The case, which has attracted worldwide headlines, is the subject of a two-hour documentary airing Monday night on A&E.