None of the remains of four women found on a Long Island beach belong to a prostitute who was last seen in the area in May, Suffolk County officials said Thursday evening.
The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office said forensic analysis determined that none of the remains belonged to Shannon Gilbert, 24, a New Jersey prostitute who had last visited a client near Oak Beach in May and was never seen again. Police said the search for Gilbert is ongoing.
Now, police continue the hard work of identifying all four recovered victims, locating the scenes of their murders and finding a killer or killers.
Also Thursday evening, police dogs finished searching the beach area where the four decomposing female bodies were found in the last several days. Eighteen cadaver sniffing dogs, including ten supplied by the State police, searched an expanded investigation zone for more than six hours Thursday. Nothing new was discovered. A previous search of Oak Beach Monday also turned up no additional grisly remains, police said.
The source says investigators are satisfied that the search was thorough and that no more bodies are lying there unseen. No additional searches are scheduled.
No suspects, persons of interest or even victims have been identified at this time.
"It's going to be a long and challenging investigation," said Suffolk County's police commissioner Richard Dormer said. He also waned against assuming a "Jack the Ripper" is on the loose.
"I don't want anybody to think we have a Jack the Ripper running around Suffolk County with blood dripping from a knife," Police Commissioner Richard Dormer told NBCNewYork. "People should go about their business this holiday season."
Suffolk County Medical Examiner Dr. Yvonne Milewski said dental records, DNA comparisons and/or facial reconstruction will likely ultimately yield the names of the victims, but cautioned, "It's possible the four bodies might never be identified."
Meanwhile, the FBI offered its assistance with the investigation by Suffolk County authorities, who suspect they may be dealing with a serial killer.
The four bodies were systematically dumped, perhaps over a period of 18 months or longer, along a desolate, windy stretch of highway east of Jones Beach State Park on Long Island's south shore, police said. Because the bodies were each just off the highway and within a quarter-mile of each other, police suspect the deaths are connected.
The mother of a missing Maine woman last seen working as an escort in New York submitted a DNA sample Wednesday to authorities trying to determine the identities of the four bodies.
Authorities obtained the DNA sample from Lorraine Ela and shipped it to New York in an effort to determine whether one of the bodies found is that of the woman's daughter, said Robert Moulton, chief of the Scarborough, Maine, Police Department.
Megan Waterman, who advertised her escort services on the online classifieds site Craigslist, was last seen in June at a Hauppauge, N.Y., hotel where she went with her boyfriend. The hotel is about 15 miles from where the bodies were found this week.
"There's definitely a possibility, but we're on hold at this point," Moulton said of the suspicion that one of the victims is Waterman.
Investigators had been looking into the disappearance of both Waterman and Gilbert, who was last seen on May 1.
Suffolk County police discovered the first body on Saturday and the other three on Monday while following up on a missing-persons report for Gilbert. A Long Island resident recalled seeing the woman believed to be Gilbert briefly at his door around 4:45 a.m. May 1.
"I heard screaming at my front door," said Gustav Coletti, who lives in Ocean Beach, about three miles from where the bodies were found.
"She was saying, 'I need help, I need help, they're after me,'" Coletti told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He told the woman he was calling the police, but she immediately turned around and fled, he said.
A few moments later, a man in a sport-utility vehicle drove past the house and told Coletti he was looking for the woman. Coletti said the driver told him they had been at a party and the woman had become upset. Authorities had taken that car into custody, but its owner told police he was not invovlved.
Detectives believe the four were killed elsewhere and then taken to the site, a narrow strip of land that divides the Great South Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The four-lane parkway runs through the middle, connecting Jones Beach State Park with several state- and town-run beaches to its east.