Police investigating the disappearance of a New Jersey sex worker along an isolated stretch of Long Island beachfront returned for the third straight day to search a marsh where they believe Shannan Gilbert may have drowned after fleeing a client's house in the gated Oak Beach community 19 months ago.
Suffolk County police wrapped up their search Thursday with no announcement of any findings, a day after authorities discovered Gilbert's jeans, shoes, purse, ID and possibly her phone in the swamp.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said Wednesday that 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.
Police think Gilbert may have drowned after becoming upset for an unexplained reason and wandering into the tidal area.
"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."
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 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.
"If it wasn't for her, maybe that that was her reason -- to help find the other victims," Mari Gilbert 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.