A funeral Thursday in Amityville for a woman whose disappearance led to the discovery of a serial killer’s dumping group four years ago helped her loved ones grieve, yet closure remained elusive.

That’s because Shannan Gilbert’s family believes that the 24-year-old escort from New Jersey was murdered in Oak Beach, where her skeletal remains were found in December 2011, 20 months after she was reported missing. And her killer, they say, is still on the loose. But, Suffolk County police have said that they suspect that she drowned in the marsh where she was found.

“She’ll never be at rest until I complete the fight and give her justice,” Marie Gilbert, Shannan’s mother, told reporters after the service at Amityville Cemetery.

The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office has said that her cause of death was “undetermined.” Famed coroner Dr. Michael Baden, who volunteered to perform a second examination, told Fox News, where he is a contributor, that she appears to have suffered a broken hyoid bone in her neck, which indicates she may have been strangled.

Baden has performed the exam Monday at a Lynbrook funeral home. The family’s attorney, John Ray, of Miller Place-based Ray, Mitev & Associates, said that Baden’s report will be released soon.

Ray is representing the family in a lawsuit against Dr. Peter Hackett, who allegedly told Mari that he took Shannan in and drugged her before she went missing. Hackett later denied those claims in media interviews. Police have said that neither Hackett nor Shannan’s last client, Joseph Brewer, are suspects in her death.

“We have slogged through the slime and muck of this case on a path that has revealed large quantities of poignant evidence not found or used by law enforcement,” Ray said while eulogizing Shannan.

Police declined to comment on the family’s claims. Ray is also suing Suffolk police in an attempt to have authorities turn over the 911 call recordings Shannan made shortly before she disappeared.

Police were searching for Gilbert when they discovered 10 sets of human remains—half of whom were also identified as escorts—along Ocean Parkway between December 2010 and the following April 2011.

While reflecting upon her daughter’s short life, Mari took solace in the role that Shannan played in leading investigators to the remains, which allowed the families of those identified to lay their loved ones to rest.

“Maybe that was her destiny,” Mari said. “To help other families.”

Shannan Gilbert
Shannan Gilbert’s remains were found in Oak Beach in December 2011.
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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.