Police investigating the disappearance of a woman along an isolated stretch of Long Island beachfront said Wednesday they had found her jeans, shoes and cell phone and believed she may have drowned in a marshy area when she went missing in 2010.
Armed with dredging machinery and canine units, police for the second day scoured the area where Shannan Gilbert was last seen in May 2010.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said the waters in the marsh had receded far below the lake-like terrain that officers had encountered in previous searches, allowing them to discover the latest items.
"It's our belief that her body, or parts of her remains, may be in that location," Dormer said Wednesday.
Dormer said a purse they found on Tuesday contains some type of photo ID, but said the items inside the bag must be meticulously dried, and said authorities have not yet been able to examine the ID.
At her home in upstate New York, Shannan Gilbert's mother cried as she listened to police explain on television that her daughter probably drowned.
Mari Gilbert hoped for the best during the search for her daughter but, she said Wednesday, "I guess God had other plans for her."
Police believe Shannan Gilbert's body will soon be found, and that the missing prostitute may have drowned, instead of being killed.
"We believe that Shannan Gilbert ran into that area the night she disappeared," Dormer said. "It's very easy to get engulfed with water and muck and fall down and not be able to get out of there. So we surmise that that's what happened to Shannan and she's in there someplace, and we're going to do everything we can to find her."
Police Inspector Stuart Cameron said officers performing the search have been navigating quicksand-like terrain, abruptly dropping to their "waist or deeper," unable to get out without help.
The 24-year-old woman vanished after fleeing a client's home in the gated seashore community several miles from Jones Beach State Park.
Police were looking for Gilbert last December when they began finding human remains in the underbrush along Ocean Parkway. Some 10 sets of human remains were eventually recovered in the area, but not Gilbert's.
The irony was not lost on Mari Gilbert. "If it wasn't for her, maybe that that was her reason -- to help find the other victims," she said Wednesday.
Mari GIlbert had maintained up until Wednesday that she believed her daughter was murdered.
Officials at first suspected several serial killers in the bodies found near the beach, but have recently said one person is responsible for all 10 deaths. No suspects have been named.
Police conducted a separate search near Gilgo Beach Monday, but said they did not uncover any new evidence related to Gilbert's disappearance or the 10 sets of remains.