A Suffolk County judge ordered police to produce the recording of the 911 call made by a woman whose disappearance led to the discovery of the Long Island Serial Killer’s dumping grounds.
Judge Sanford Berland directed Tuesday attorneys for Suffolk police to make a copy of the recording available for review in the judge’s chambers by March 19. That’s the next court date in the lawsuit filed by John Ray, a Miller Place-based attorney for the family of Shannan Gilbert, the New Jersey woman who was reported missing from Oak Beach and was found dead in 2011.
“There are missing pieces that [the plaintiffs] are trying to put together, as the police presumably are as well,” Berland said in court. “But there may be pieces of information that may be useful to the plaintiff without compromising the investigation.”
Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker who advertised on Craigslist, was reported missing in May 2010 from the Oak Beach home of Joseph Brewer, her last client. Police were searching for her when they found the remains of 10 murder victims along Ocean Parkway, who authorities suspect were slain by three or more different killers. Gilbert’s remains were found in a marsh, which led police to believe she drowned, although her family believes she was murdered. Her official cause of death is “undetermined.”
“We need those tapes in order to advance our case,” Ray argued at Suffolk Supreme Court in Riverhead. Besides Gilbert’s 23-minute call in which she reportedly told a 911 operator “they’re trying to kill me,” Ray is also seeking records of 911 calls made by Brewer and two other Oak Beach residents, Barbara Brennan and Gus Coletti, on the night of Gilbert’s disappearance.
Ray told the court that detectives may be trying to hide information relating to this case — an allegation that the county’s defense attorney denied.
Elaine Barraga, who represented Suffolk police, said that releasing the tapes would conflict with the open investigation, but there has been “certainly no effort in trying to hide or ‘fudge’ information.”
Berland also questioned whether the investigation would be compromised by the release of the tapes.
“By not being the homicide detective or having that expertise, I can only rely on what the detectives are telling me,” Barraga said of her argument that the investigation would be compromised by releasing the tapes.
In 2016, Gilbert’s family had a second autopsy conducted in which an independent medical examiner found that Shannan may have been victim of a homicide, although police disputed the claim. Gilbert was buried at Amityville Cemetery in 2015. Her sister, Sarra, was convicted of killing her mother, Mari, upstate last year.
-With Timothy Bolger
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