Three more bodies have been found along a remote swath of Long Island coastland where five other sets of human remains were dumped in what could be the work of a serial killer, police said.
Authorities have been combing the dense, tick-infested undergrowth in the search for more victims since a fifth body was discovered near Gilgo Beach last week. The total now stands at eight, and it's possible more could be discovered.
"We found human remains, three human remains so far," said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer.
The fifth set of remains was found last week. That victim has not been identified, and police have not positively connected it with the bodies of four prostitutes found nearby in December.
Fire trucks and police cadets joined helicopters, K-9 units and homicide detectives in the search Monday. Cadaver dogs had previously led the search, but the rough beachfront terrain has been difficult for the canines to navigate, police said.
As a result, 25 cadets from the Suffolk Police Academy were brought in to assist with the search. They have been trudging through the heavy brush, hunting for more bodies and evidence.
"The investigation is progressing," Dormer said. "It takes time. It's not like a TV show where the mystery is solved in an hour."
Investigators brought in hook and ladder trucks from three Suffolk fire departments to give searchers another perspective as the search resumed. The ladders are extended over the brush, giving officers in the attached buckets a birds-eye view of the area below.
In addition, emergency service officers are riding atop police box trucks for a better vantage point of the area below.
The four dead prostitutes were found in December in the area, a 4-foot-tall tangle of sea grass and other vegetation punctuated by scrubby pine trees. Police theorize the deaths might be the work of a serial killer but so far have no suspects.
It took more than a month to identify the four women found in December. The New York City medical examiner's office is helping Suffolk County officials investigate.
Forensic testing determined that the body found last week was not that of Shannan Gilbert, a missing Jersey City, N.J., woman. That's who Dormer said searchers are hoping to find.
Police say the medical examiner should be able to quickly determine whether any of these three bodies is Gilbert because she is said to have a metal piece in her jaw. That metal has made ruling out her identity in other discoveries more simple.
Gilbert's family has been notified of this latest find.
Gilbert, 24, was last seen in Oak Beach on May 1, 2010, after apparently meeting a client she had booked through Craigslist. The bodies of the four other women, who worked as Craigslist escorts and were in their 20s, were found along the same highway by police searching for Gilbert.
Gilbert had arranged to meet a client in Oak Beach. A resident of the gated seaside enclave has told authorities a woman believed to be Gilbert came to his door around 4:45 a.m. May 1, pleading for help.
The man said that when he tried to call police, the woman fled.
A few moments later, an unidentified man in a sport utility vehicle drove past the house and said he was looking for the woman, but then took off. Neither the woman nor the man was seen by the neighbor again.
The client Gilbert had arranged to meet was investigated but is not believed to be a suspect in her disappearance.