Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Long Island Ripper

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Aerial view of gilgo beach crime scene
Aerial view of gilgo beach crime scene
Spring finally brought new developments. On March 29, 2011, a Marine Unit cop driving along the beach spotted something unusual amid the sea grass and brush. It turned out to be a fifth body. Two days later, investigators unearthed three more bodies a mile east of the first four. These later discoveries weren't in burlap sacks, and they were further away from Ocean Drive than the group first discovered, but police and the media assumed at least a copycat connection. Sources familiar with the forensic investigation said that these later four bodies had been on the beach longer than the original group.

Even before they identified any of the bodies the cops were confident that none among the dead was their original, still-missing person, Shannan Gilbert. They would have been easily able to identify her by a metal pin that they knew remained after a surgery she'd undergone.

Map with Ocean Parkway locator
Map with Ocean Parkway locator

The discoveries prompted investigators to revisit the nearby Oak Island Beach Association, the last place Shannan Gilbert had been seen. Authorities also spread the search east to Nassau County, too, searching for more bodies before the spring warmth spurred plants to grow over any evidence that remains in the dunes.

On April 12, 2011, police found a skull in the John F. Kennedy Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary, a torso a mile away, and a bag holding various extremities. Depending on how many victims these scattered parts represent, that might make the ninth, tenth, or eleventh victim—or more. Meanwhile, the New York Post reported that one of the second batch of Suffolk corpses included that of a young child.

The story is still developing. Investigators have at last hinted that they have a suspect.

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