As we have been reporting in these pages, police in New York’s Suffolk County have renewed their efforts to solve the decades-old case of one of Long Island’s most notorious serial killers, the “Gilgo Beach Killer.”
Among the evidence that has long been in the hands of authorities but never released to the public was the frantic 911 call made by Shannan Gilbert. It was Gilbert’s disappearance that led to police to the realization that they had a serial killer – mostly of sex workers – on their hands.
Ironically, the search for Gilbert, a New Jersey call girl, led to the discovery of four bodies, as well as eventually her own. However, police did not believe that Gilbert herself was a victim of the same serial killer. Now, by releasing the long-suppressed 911 call, Gilbert’s family thinks it could help find out what really happened to her, and authorities think it could also trigger something that could lead them to the actual Gilgo Beach Killer.
It was 4:51 a.m. on May 1, 2010. Gilbert called 911 after meeting a client, Joseph Brewer, at his home in Oak Beach, a small residential community near Gilgo Beach.
That call lasted 22 minutes. 911 was called two more times. The dialogue was disorganized. At times Gilbert was coherent. At others, she slurred her words. Sometimes she didn’t respond at all. And at times, she was heard screaming.
What transpired on the 911 recordings involving the 24-year-old woman the last night she was seen alive was kept secret for the 12 years until Suffolk police shared them on May 13, part of an ongoing effort at transparency around the Gilgo Beach case.
Gilbert repeated that phrase — “Somebodys after me. There’s somebody after me. There’s somebody after me!” — three more times to the New York State Police dispatcher to whom the 911 dispatcher transferred the call, the audio reveals.
Twice, the state police dispatcher can be heard asking for Gilbert’s location. Twice Gilbert replied, “There’s somebody after me.” Then she said she didn’t know where she was and asked if the dispatcher could trace the call. The dispatcher said she couldn’t.
To that, Gilbert said, “Please. There’s somebody after me.”
That first 911 call continues for another 20 minutes. A man is intermittently heard in the background. Gilbert is frequently heard saying, “Please stop.” She seems confused. Banging, possibly door knocks, and heavy breathing are later heard on the line, along with the voice of a man, as the dispatcher says, “Hello! Hello! Hello!”
After 22 minutes and 42 seconds, the call cuts out, with the dispatcher still trying to confirm Gilbert’s location.
Gilbert’s Link to the Gilgo Beach Killer
Despite her body being found in the area and the now horrific details of her frantic 911 call on public display, authorities do not believe that Gilbert was a victim of the Gilgo Beach serial killer. However, it was her disappearance that led to the finds of nearly a dozen other sets of remains, most of them Craigslist escorts who vanished. While Suffolk officials still say that they don’t believe Gilbert’s case is connected to the others, the families hope the 911 calls could shed some light on their outstanding mysteries.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison, a former NYPD top chief, had pledged more openness in the ongoing unsolved investigation since his appointment in 2021. Families of the victims — those who were discovered in burlap sacks on a desolate stretch of Ocean Parkway in 2010 amid the search for Gilbert — have been waiting years for the release of the 911 calls connected to Gilbert’s case.
The delay involved a previous administration. Harrison had said earlier this year he would release the tapes provided they didn’t interfere with the ongoing investigation. In the months since, Harrison, the fifth Suffolk police commissioner to oversee the investigation, also shared new video footage of Megan Waterman, one of the Craigslist escorts found dead on that remote stretch of Ocean Parkway in December 2010, and new background information on the so-called “Gilgo Four.”
But the 911 tapes, which longtime Gilbert family attorney John Ray has sought to have released for more than a decade, have been held until now. Though it was her disappearance and the subsequent search that led police to the serial murderer’s victims, Gilbert’s own skeletal remains weren’t found until December 2011, well after the others.
They were located in a marshy swamp by Oak Beach, where she may have fled as she was on the phone with 911. Her manner of death was “inconclusive.” A private pathologist hired by the Gilbert family also found insufficient evidence to confirm a cause of death. But that pathologist did say there were signs on Gilbert’s remains that were consistent with manual strangulation as a potential cause.
Ray and Gilbert’s mother, who was killed by another one of her daughters years ago, said she was murdered. Suffolk County police have long said Gilbert’s case didn’t appear to be connected to the others. They doubled down on that in a nearly 13-minute video explainer of the 911 calls as part of the May 13 information release.
Investigators continue to assert — including in the video explainer shared Friday — that there is nothing to suggest anyone followed Gilbert into the marsh. They believe she got lost in the high weeds and succumbed to the elements.
“The Suffolk County Police Department is open to evaluate any evidence to be able to help us, and all involved, determine a definite cause of death,” Homicide Section Commanding Officer D/Lt. Kevin Beyrer said. “However, based on the evidence, the facts, and the totality of the circumstances, the prevailing opinion is that Shannan’s death, while tragic, was not a murder and was most likely an accident.”