Search resumes at LI beach for missing prostitute

December 1, 2011 7:17:10 PM PST
Police in Suffolk County resumed the search for a missing prostitute on the south shore of Long Island Thursday.

Investigators still believe the body of Shannan Gilbert may be located at Gilgo Beach, and they returned to the dunes along Ocean Parkway to look for new clues.

The decision comes in the same week that Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said his investigators now believe that one killer is responsible for 10 murders dating as far back as 1996.

Gilbert, a prostitute from Jersey City, vanished May 1, 2010. She was visiting the Oak Beach home of a man who had answered her ad on Craigslist. Gilbert was last seen running from the house, not far from Gilgo Beach. The search for her body led to the discovery of the 10 other victims.

Authorities had been operating on the belief that multiple killers were using the beaches as a burial ground. But officials said similarities between the victims that made them revise their theory. The victims are all of similar age and worked in the sex trade.

"Serial killers evolve," Dormer said. "They change their MOs. They don't necessarily do the same thing all the time. What's common here is the dumping ground."

Police now believe a single killer is responsible for the murders. And there could be more victims out there if he isn't caught.

"Serial killers working alone, the girls he contacted with met him alone," Dormer said.

The first four bodies, all prostitutes, were found in December of 2010. In the spring, officers swept the dunes again with dogs and helicopters, pushing west from Gilgo Beach into Nassau County. They found six additional victims, one of them a female toddler about 2 years old who was linked to one of the other adult victims.

All the adult victims were linked to the sex trade, and the one male victim was dressed in women's clothing. Dormer says it appears the killer lives on Long Island, which is of concern of people who live nearby.

"Maybe there's somebody who could live in this area, so you need to be a little more careful," one area resident said.

Police have said that Gilbert's last client is not a suspect. He reportedly has put that beachfront house up for sale at a reported price of $400,000.