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Corpse found near NY beach is likely prostitute'sRemains found near NY beach believed to be missing prostitute; led to serial killing probe
OAK BEACH, N.Y. (AP) ' After a yearlong search, police investigators on New York's Long Island announced Tuesday that they believe they have discovered the skeletal remains of a New Jersey prostitute who vanished last December after fleeing a client's home in a panic.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said searchers found the bones at around 9:15 a.m. in a dense wetland thicket, not far from where Shannan Gilbert disappeared.
He said authorities believe it is Gilbert's corpse, although further examination will be conducted by the county medical examiner.
Police began searching for the 24-year-old Jersey City, N.J., woman last December when they came upon the first of what would become 10 homicide victims' remains. They were strewn along several miles of thicket along a parkway leading to Jones Beach.
Police believe a serial killer is responsible for those deaths. They think Gilbert may have drowned accidentally while fleeing a client's home for an unclear reason.
Dormer said the location of the skeleton suggests that Gilbert may have been trying to flee across the wetland to a causeway. He suggested that she had become hopelessly entangled in the brush, which he called a "tough, desolate, tangled mess."
"The terrain would have made it impossible," for her to get through to the road," Dormer said. "Our people who were in there over the last few days had to cut through that brush and bramble area, before she was located."
Relatives of some of the other people whose bodies were found along a nearby beach highway are holding a vigil Tuesday to mark the anniversary of when their loves ones' remains were found.
A police officer and his cadaver dog were following up on the disappearance of Gilbert when they came across a set of human remains on Dec. 11, 2010. Two days later, three more bodies were found. By April, the total had risen to 10 bodies, all strewn along several miles of Ocean Parkway, on a barrier island south of Long Island that leads to Jones Beach.
Authorities at first believed several people could be involved, but Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer has said recently that detectives now suspect one serial killer is likely responsible for all 10 deaths because the victims all had some connection to the sex trade.
The victims included eight women, a man and a toddler. Police believe the women were prostitutes and suspect the man was involved in the sex trade because he was found wearing women's clothing. The toddler is believed to be the child of one of the prostitutes. Only five of the 10 victims have been identified, and police have not commented on any possible suspects.
Melissa Cann of New London, Conn., whose sister, Maureen Brainerd-Barnes, was among the first four victims found, and Lorraine Ela, the Portland, Maine, mother of Megan Waterman ' also found on Dec. 13, 2010 ' are organizing the vigil Tuesday with supporters at Oak Beach, a gated community near where the discoveries took place.
"We think it's important that we do as much as possible to keep the public aware of this case," Cann told The Associated Press last week. "There could be a clue out there."
Ela said Monday that she took a 14-hour bus trip from Maine to Long Island to attend the vigil. The families are holding a fundraiser later Tuesday at a Wantagh nightclub to help defray their travel expenses.
Gilbert was last seen meeting a client for sex in Oak Beach. Last week, authorities renewed the search after finding some of her personal belongings, including her cellphone, jeans, shoes and pocketbook with ID, in a marshy wetland adjacent to Oak Beach.
Officers using heavy earth-moving equipment have been excavating the site for the past week.
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