Serial killer search expands by air, sea

April 12, 2011 8:20:58 PM PDT
Even as Nassau County suspended its ground search operation, other investigators began marking off the bay waters near the serial killer's burial ground in apparent preparations for a dive search. The area is adjacent between Gilgo and Ocean beaches, where most of the bodies have been found.

According to law enforcement officials involved in the case the decision to suspend ground searches in Nassau County was in part dictated by weather conditions.

They instead did a helicopter survey of about 40 acres too marshy to walk.

Officers found more remains at both Jones Beach and Tobay Beach in Nassau County on Monday, as the search zone expanded west from Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach.

None of the nine bodies found so far are Shannan Gilbert, the prostitute who'd vanished in Oak Beach last May.

The day after her disappearance, Gilbert's mother says she received a strange phone call from a doctor who lives nearby, saying Shannan had been in his house the day she disappeared.

"He called me on the phone. He said he had a halfway house and that Shannon was there," she explained. "She wanted to be off the streets and he was trying to help her."

When we asked Peter Hackett about the story, he said he didn't say Shannon was in his house.

"Of course not. That's ridiculous," he said.

Hackett is a former head of Suffolk County Emergency Medical Services and a former police surgeon who lives in the area where Gilbert was last seen, after visiting with a client.

Hackett denies ever meeting Shannan Gilbert, but he says police have interviewed him about the case two or three times. He wouldn't say what about.

As for the grisly discoveries miles from his home?

"I can't imagine who would do such a horrible, mean thing. It's beyond the level of my belief and I can't even it imagine it happening," Hackett said.

Sources tell ABC News that police have been speaking with many residents of the Oak and Gilgo beach communities as they try to figure out what happened to Shannan and who killed nine other people, including a young child.

Suffolk County police divers plan to continue the search under water in Hemlock Cove on Wednesday.

In the meantime, police sources tell ABC News they're considering whether to clear cut some underbrush along Ocean Parkway to expose more potential remains and other clues.

The search in Suffolk County started back in December, and with snow storms and frozen ground, it stretched on for three months. Police found the remains of eight bodies, four of which have been identified. The earliest disappearance stretches back almost four years, to July of 2007.

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