Renowned forensic pathologist Michael Baden has agreed to conduct an independent autopsy on the remains of Shannan Gilbert. Gilbert’s body was found almost 3 years ago near the Long Island Serial Killer’s dumping ground. The police were searching for Gilbert, 6 months after her disappearance in 2010, when they discovered remains covered in burlap and bramble on the south shore of Gilgo Beach in Long Island, New York. It is the work of a suspected serial killer.
On December 11, 2010, Officer John Mallia and his police dog, Blue, discovered the remains of Melissa Barthelemy, 24 (disappeared in 2009). Over the next few days, the remains of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25 (disappeared in 2007), Megan Waterman, 22, (disappeared in 2010) and Amber Lynn Costello, (disappeared in 2010) 27 were discovered. All of the women found were escorts who advertised their services on Craigslist just like Gilbert, yet Gilbert’s death is not linked to the others.
Authorities believe Gilbert caused her own death. They concluded that Gilbert ran into the marsh, disoriented, attempting to get to the parkway, which was lighted and drowned. Her family is convinced that the 23-year-old was killed in the early morning hours of May 1, 2010 after visiting a client, by the Long Island Serial Killer. Police have publicly characterized her death as a “death by misadventure”.
“There are a lot of questions as to the cause of Shannan’s death, given the circumstances of how she died as known at the time of the autopsy,” said Dr. Michael Baden, “There is further forensic testing that can be done.”
Gilbert’s family, being represented by John Ray, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dr. Charles Peter Hackett. The family alleges that Dr. Hackett gave Gilbert a drug that night which eventually led to her death. Hackett maintains his innocence and says he never saw Gilbert that night.
The Suffolk County Medical Examiner lists Gilbert’s cause and manner of death as unknown noting that her remains reveal no evidence of trauma. Almost all of Gilbert’s remains were recovered except for small parts of the front of the neck (hyoid bone) and some cartilage. Gilbert’s remains tested negative for drugs.
Baden hopes to focus on the neck bones, larynx, and windpipe. All of the women found at Gilgo Beach were strangled.
Baden also hopes to conduct a more thorough toxicology test.
“In view of all the new evidence that I have gathered, the case is overwhelming that Shannan was murdered and that the police have overlooked the correct persons of interest,” Ray told the media, “This cold case has been inflamed.”
That night, Gilbert responded to an answer to her ad from Joseph Brewer. Brewer lived in the gated-community of Oak Beach. Gilbert’s driver, Michael Pak, transported her to the man’s home and waited outside. For unknown reasons, Gilbert fled on foot from Brewer’s home and made a 23-minute 911 call, in which she said, “They’re trying to kill me.” A complete transcript of the call has never been released. Shortly afterwards, she was seen banging on the front door of a residence screaming for help. The owner of the residence fearful for his life did not open the door and Gilbert ran off. Hackett and Brewer were ruled out as suspects. Suffolk County PD waited nearly 6 months to begin looking for Gilbert.
Baden is the former Chief Medical Examiner of New York City and former Chief Forensic Pathologist for the New York State Police. He has investigated more than 3,000 homicides, suicides, and drug deaths. He was also involved in the investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights activist Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Any new information can provide a more informed determination of cause of death,” Baden said of Gilbert, “We’ll see.”
Six more sets of remains were found in 2011. Authorities have announced that they believe one person is responsible for the 10 deaths. It was also revealed in 2011 that the police are revisiting the unsolved murders of two other prostitutes including Tanya Rush, 39, who was found dismembered in a suitcase in 2008 on the shoulder of the Southern State Parkway.