In what may turn out to be a significant and certainly a long-awaited development, a Long Island judge has ordered the Suffolk County Police Department to hand over a transcript of the 911 call made by an escort whose mysterious disappearance led to the discovery of the Long Island Serial Killer’s dumping ground.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Shannan Gilbert was last seen at the home of Oak Beach resident Joseph Brewer on May 1, 2010. Gilbert was an escort advertising on Craigslist and met Brewer for the first time after midnight. In the early hours of the morning, Gilbert made a 23-minute 911 call, reportedly screaming, “they’re trying to kill me,” before running off, hysterical, into the quiet neighborhood. When police arrived, they couldn’t find her anywhere.
The search for Shannan Gilbert led investigators to the discovery of four bodies just a few miles away, near Gilgo Beach; an expanded search found additional remains on Long Island, in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Gilbert’s dead body was discovered in December 2011 in a marsh in Oak Beach, not far from Brewer’s home, but investigators have insisted that she wasn’t a victim of a serial killer, and likely died of natural causes.
Gilbert’s family has long challenged this claim, and, along with multiple media outlets, has attempted to obtain a full audio recording or transcript of the 911 call Shannan placed just before she was last seen. The SCPD has repeatedly refused to release the 911 call, citing the ongoing investigation. John Ray, the lawyer for Gilbert’s estate, has been working for years through the courts to access the recording, and so far has been unsuccessful.
But a hearing regarding the 911 call on Tuesday could be a long-awaited turning point.
Ray told CrimeOnline that Judge Sanford Berland ordered Suffolk County police officials to “produce the reasons why they can’t release the tapes,” in Ray’s words. Berland also reportedly ordered them to provide the judge with a full transcript of the 911 call for him to review.
The attorney said Tuesday was the first time a judge has demanded a transcript of the call. The county has been given a deadline of March 19, and Ray said he suspects that the judge’s order will force the SCPD to admit that they do not have the recording of Gilbert’s 911 call.
Ray said he cannot otherwise explain the department’s refusal to release the audio or a transcript of the call, given their insistence that Gilbert was not a homicide victim.
“Back then, having the good faith of the police, I assumed they knew more than we did,” Ray said, referring to the early years of the investigation.
“Almost eight years have gone by,” he said. “One cannot accept that the police are in good faith holding back information.”
The suspected Long Island Serial Killer remains at large, and police have never identified a suspect or person of interest in the investigation.
[Feature image: Shannan Gilbert/Handout]