Suffolk Police Must Release Shannan Gilbert 911 Tape, Appeals Court Panel Affirms

Shannan Gilbert
Shannan Gilbert

Suffolk County police must release a recording of the 911 call that Shannan Gilbert, a key figure in the Gilgo Beach serial murder case, made a decade ago this month, a New York State appeals court panel ruled Wednesday.

The state Apellate Division, Second Judicial Department in Brooklyn affirmed a 2018 Suffolk County Supreme Court ruling that previously ordered police to release the tape to Gilbert’s family. It was not immediately clear if the county planned to appeal the ruling to the state’s highest court, the sate Court of Appeals.

“We agree with the Supreme Court’s determination that the SCPD’s conclusory assertions that disclosure of the 911 recordings would interfere with an ongoing homicide investigation more than eight years after Shannan’s death did not outweigh the plaintiffs’ interest in disclosure of material which was relevant to the plaintiffs’ action,” Judges Ruth Balkin, John Leventhal, Sheri Roman, and Francesca Connolly jointly wrote in their decision.

Gilbert made the 911 call from Oak Beach on May 1, 2010. Police were searching for her when they found the remains of four women in nearby Gilgo Beach in December of that year and six more sets of remains also along Ocean Parkway the following spring. 

Gilbert’s remains were found in a marsh in Oak Beach in December 2011. The county medical examiner’s office deemed her cause of death “inconclusive.” Police suggested at the time that she ran into the marsh and drowned, but her family maintains that she was slain. Current police leaders have declined to speculate on whether they believe Gilbert was killed or died accidentally, but say her case remains open.

“The SCPD are now finally required by law to produce to me the controversial 911 recordings,” said John Ray, the Miller Place-based attorney who represents the Gilbert family. “It is especially pleasing that the Appellate Division’s decision to uphold the court order to release the recordings was made the week of the 10th anniversary of Shannan’s disappearance.”
Neither Suffolk police nor the county attorney’s office immediately responded to a request for comment on whether they plan to appeal or comply with the order. But during a January news conference when police released previously undisclosed evidence in the Gilgo Beach case, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the department will be “guided by the verdict” in the Gilbert lawsuit. 
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