A sex worker whose 2010 death was ruled a ‘tragic accident’ was killed in the same way as the so-called Gilgo Four, a lawyer representing her family has claimed.
Shannon Gilbert’s body was found in a marsh near Gilgo Beach a year after Long Island police found the bodies of four other sex workers wrapped in burlap sacks on the beach.
Police have long maintained that Gilbert, 23, died of a drug-induced drowning.
But John Ray, a lawyer for Gilbert’s family, claims she was killed by a serial killer who has yet to be identified.
He said a second autopsy on her body proved she was strangled, just like Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27.
Architect Rex Heuerman, 59, has been arrested in connection with the deaths of Melissa, Megan and Amber and is Maureen’s prime suspect.
But he wasn’t charged with Gilbert’s death — and Ray never hinted that Heuerman might have killed him.
Lawyers representing Shanan Gilbert’s family say she was strangled, much like the so-called Gilgo Four whose bodies were found in burlap sacks on Gilgo Beach.
Gilbert’s body was found in a nearby swamp a year after the body of Melissa Barthelemy, 24, was discovered; Megan Waterman, 22; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27
He said Suffolk County police have long had questions about whether Gilbert’s death was a drug-induced drowning.
‘When the police claimed he wandered into the swamp and committed suicide, when I saw the autopsy report where he was found lying in the bushes, and the police claimed he drowned, it didn’t make sense,’ Ray told US Sun.
A second autopsy conducted by Dr. Michael Baden found that Gilbert had ‘met a violent end, that she had been strangled.
‘When we looked at the bones, we realized that the very small, prominent hyoid bone in the neck was cracked at one end,’ Ray explained, adding that doctors also found a hole at the base of Shannon’s hyoid bone.
‘It looks like something was either drilled or pushed through that bone and we couldn’t determine what it was, but it was very unusual.’
With questions in his mind about the police’s explanation of the drowning, and what he called the ‘fallback position’ where local authorities also claimed he could have died from natural causes after getting lost in the swamp, Roy said he decided to visit the swamp himself.
‘I don’t believe Shannan has ever entered the swamp,’ he said firmly, noting that he had visited the swamp a year earlier on the day Shannan had disappeared in the same weather.
He entered the swamp in the same position, which he said was difficult to bypass, ‘but you can enter.’
‘On either side of the marsh, easy escape routes are found,’ continued Ray.
‘It would be absurd to say that someone got lost in a swamp and died because they couldn’t get out,’ he said, adding that when walking in a swamp, ‘the mud you walked on was damp and sometimes there was a little water that would come up, say the tip of your boot.
‘And that was about it, it wasn’t deep at all,’ Roy said.
‘Even if he fell into the canals, they weren’t deep,’ he said. ‘They’re not waist deep – they’ll come up to your thighs for an average person.’
Architect Rex Heuerman, 59, has been arrested and charged in the deaths of Melissa, Megan and Amber and is Maureen’s prime suspect.
The first victim, Melissa Barthelemy, 24, was discovered by Suffolk County police on Dec. 11, 2010. Megan Waterman, 22, was found two days later.
Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 25 when she disappeared (left). Amber Lynn Costello was 27 years old. Their bodies were found near Barthelemy on the same day
Shannan was last seen running from the home of a client, Joseph Brewer, the day she disappeared, before running to a neighbor’s house for help.
Barbara Brennan then called police at around 5.30am on May 1, 2010 and said it was just minutes before dawn.
‘So it would have been twilight, not darkness,’ said Ray. ‘So the police theory that he was lost in the dark and confused is absurd.
‘In fact, as we drove through the marsh, the further we went, we could see the houses lined up from the oak beach within the houses that lined the marsh on its southern side.’
Former Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer also claimed Shannon ran through the brambles, which ripped off his jeans.
‘First of all, any girl who wears jeans – they’re not baggy like in the hippie days – they’re tight jeans and they don’t come off because the sticker bushes pull them when you go through the swamp,’ said Roy, dispelling the idea.
‘How do you stop them? You have to take them off or have someone take them off for you.
‘Then they argue, well he’s panicked and in his panic, because he was on drugs, he was hallucinating and he wet himself and he took his pants off.
‘That’s also absurd,’ he said, noting ‘there is zero evidence’ that Gilbert was under the influence of drugs on the day he disappeared.
She also said in a previous interview that Shanan was wearing a bra in the photo taken of her body and that the band that connects the two cups was cut in half.
State police and crime lab teams continue to comb through Humane’s Massapequa Park home. A lab worker is pictured at the scene Saturday
State troopers say a ‘major dig’ is underway at the home of New York architect Rex Heuerman. In the photo, state police are collecting evidence at the scene
Police are now investigating whether Heuerman may have been involved in other murders, searching his properties in Massapequa Park, Las Vegas, Nevada and rural South Carolina.
On Sunday, police brought in the dead dog to search the premises of his ramshackle Long Island home.
Aerial footage of the scene also revealed teams of investigators digging up dirt and collecting evidence in Heuermann’s backyard.
A neighbor told local police they believed at least one woman had been killed in a soundproof room in the Humane’s basement.
Human’s longtime neighbor Robert Musto, 64, told the New York Post: ‘He has a soundproof room in the basement. What do you think it was for?’
‘This guy’s a wacko,’ added the retired Long Island Rail Road worker — claiming he heard about the basement from police, who have been searching the scene since Heuerman’s arrest on July 13.
Musto said: ‘They say there is evidence that he killed at least one girl there.
‘The police are going to dig everything up. Said they’re focused on the soundproof room in the basement but they’ll look at everything.’
Police told the Sunday Post that ‘police are looking for evidence if the victims were at home but nothing has been found yet.’
Heuerman has pleaded not guilty to murder.
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