After a dozen years, Long Island police on Friday released the 911 audio of a New Jersey woman whose mysterious disappearance in 2010 led authorities to discover 10 more bodies.
Shannan Gilbert, from Jersey City, was a Craigslist sex worker when she went missing in the early hours of May 1, 2010.
Suffolk County police, who battled the release of more than 21 minutes of Gilbert’s 911 audio on the day of his disappearance, said Friday they were releasing 911 calls related to his disappearance because they would not would not jeopardize ongoing investigations.
Suffolk Homicide Section Commander Kevin Beyrer said in recorded video released at a press conference that Gilbert had traveled from Manhattan to visit a client, Joseph Brewer. She was driven by her driver, Michael Pak, who was also her security.
Gilbert’s emotions on the released audio go from calm, to fear, to hysteria, at times.
She first called 911 from inside Brewer’s Oak Beach home shortly before 5 a.m., Beyrer said.
“There’s someone after me,” she repeatedly told the dispatcher. “Somebody’s after me – please,” Gilbert said.
When the dispatcher asked her where she was, Gilbert could not specify, but replied that she was on Long Island.
Sometimes during the 911 call you can hear Brewer and Pak talking, they’re trying to get her out of Brewer’s house.
“Come on, let’s go. We’re all going to hang out,” Brewer was heard saying.
Gilbert said, “Please get me out of here, Mike.”
Brewer then ran out of the house and began screaming and hit a neighbor, Gus Coletti, police said.
“Is someone after you?” Don’t hurt yourself. Where are you going ? We hear Coletti say.
He called 911 and said, “There’s a girl about 14 running around screaming.”
Gilbert then fled Coletti’s home and tried to get help from another neighbor, Barbara Brennan, who called 911, police said.
“A woman is knocking on my door…She says she’s in danger…I’m not letting her in,” Brennan said.
Beyrer said that while the exact cause of Gilbert’s death is undetermined, investigators consulted with the FBI and the FBI consulted with psychiatrists who reviewed Gilbert’s 911 calls.
“Based on the evidence, the facts and the totality of the circumstances, the prevailing view is that Shannan Gilbert’s death, while tragic, was not murder and is most likely an accident,” he said. -he declares.
An autopsy conducted by a private pathologist hired by Gilbert’s family concluded there was insufficient evidence to determine the cause of his death, Beyrer said, but the pathologist’s findings were consistent with homicide and strangulation.
In the video, Beyrer explains that Gilbert apparently wandered through a brushy swamp in which the reeds can grow up to 12 feet tall.
“You can’t tell where the highway is or where the bay is,” he said. Part of the brush is impenetrable. Gilbert’s body was discovered north of a trench, about 3/4 of a mile from where she was last seen, Beyrer said.
Gilbert’s search in 2010 led to the discovery of the remains of 10 other people, mostly sex workers like Gilbert.
Police in Suffolk County, New York fought a judge’s order to hand over the 22-minute 911 call she made.
Department attorneys argued that releasing the tape would jeopardize an ongoing investigation. John Ray, the attorney for Gilbert’s estate, said the police’s refusal to release the audio was suspicious.
“The public really has a right to know what’s on those tapes as well as Shannan’s family,” Ray said in 2019. “It will generate witnesses who are in the public who know what happened. and which may manifest themselves.”
Suffolk County Police launched a search, and in December 2010 a K-9 unit found the first of 10 bodies buried near Gilgo and Oak beaches. The dead included eight women and a man wearing women’s clothing – all suspected prostitutes, police say – as well as a baby girl.
It wasn’t until December 2011 that investigators discovered Gilbert’s remains in a remote swamp near Oak Beach, about half a mile from where she was last seen.
A medical examiner’s autopsy proved inconclusive. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said at the time that investigators believe she drowned or succumbed to the elements.
“She walked at least a half mile, three quarters of a mile, through that mud,” Dormer said at a news conference. “It would be very easy to burn out and fall and not be able to move forward.”
Gilbert’s family later released the results of an independent autopsy which determined that injuries to his neck were “consistent with a murderous strangulation.”
The lead detective in the case argued in court documents that the department was still in the midst of an “open, active and ongoing” criminal investigation into Gilbert’s death. Detective Patrick Portela noted similarities in the sets of bodies found during the search for Gilbert and that four of the women who died were escorts who, like Gilbert, used Craigslist and Backpage to advertise their services.
Disclosure of the tapes, Portela said in court documents, “would compromise confidential information and interfere with and frustrate the efforts of the Suffolk County Police Department” in the investigation.
Police have been forced to argue in favor of withholding a recording of Gilbert’s 911 call after his family sued a Long Island doctor claiming he opened up his home to Gilbert but failed to protect her. The doctor denied the allegations and much of the lawsuit was thrown out due to the statute of limitations.
A judge had ordered Suffolk County police to turn over the tape of the call, along with others made by neighbors at the time of Gilbert’s disappearance. In an October 2018 ruling, Judge Sanford Berland said the police department had not provided “any guidance” as to how or why giving Gilbert’s family access to the tapes “would compromise any aspect of their protracted investigation”.
Six years after Gilbert’s disappearance, a new tragedy befalls his family. Gilbert’s younger sister, Sarra, fatally stabbed their mother, Mari Gilbert, in July 2016. Sarra was convicted of murder in April 2017 and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.