YAPHANK, N.Y. — Police searching for a missing New Jersey woman said Wednesday they were working to identify human remains found a day earlier along a remote beach highway on New York’s Long Island, about a mile from where the bodies of four prostitutes were discovered in December.
“We expect that very shortly,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said of the identification process. The remains found Tuesday “have been there for some time,” he said, declining to elaborate.
The latest search for Shannan Gilbert centered on the marsh and woods around Oak Beach and along Ocean Parkway in Babylon, N.Y. Police were looking for her in December when they happened upon the other women’s bodies several miles east of Jones Beach State Park.
One body was identified as Megan Waterman, a 22-year-old from Scarborough, Maine. She last was seen at a Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge, N.Y., on June 6.
Those bodies were strewn 500 yards apart along the highway. Police have classified their deaths as homicides, but no suspects have been publicly identified.
Police theorize a serial killer may have been responsible but have not revealed many details about their investigation. Dormer said there is “no definitive link” to the deaths of the prostitutes and the latest discovery. He declined to even identify the latest victim by gender, saying he preferred to allow the medical examiner to make that determination.
Dormer said Gilbert’s family has provided DNA samples for comparison, which he said should expedite the process of identifying or eliminating her as the victim.
Gilbert, a 24-year-old Jersey City, N.J., woman, worked as a prostitute and arranged through Craigslist to meet a client in Oak Beach last May. A resident of the gated seaside enclave has told authorities a woman believed to be Gilbert came to his door around 4:45 a.m. on May 1, pleading for help.
The man said when he attempted to call police, the woman fled.
A few moments later, an unidentified man in a sport utility vehicle drove past the house and said he was looking for the woman, but then took off. Neither the woman nor the man was seen by the neighbor again.
The client Gilbert had arranged to meet was investigated by police but is not believed to be a suspect in her disappearance.
Dormer said police previously had searched the area where the latest body was discovered, but he noted it was difficult to maneuver through the thick underbrush along the highway.
“It’s a rugged area, thick with brush. It is possible to miss something,” he said.
Police have made routine checks of the area since December and want to scour the area before the foliage starts growing in.
Dormer said investigators would return en masse to the area early next week and another thorough search would be conducted. Several miles of the highway were closed to traffic on Wednesday as investigators combed the area for clues.
The four prostitutes whose bodies were found in December share some similarities with Gilbert. Each was in her 20s, posted her services as an escort on Craigslist and was last seen heading to meet a client.
Waterman went missing after traveling to New York last Memorial Day weekend with Akeem Cruz, a 21-year-old Brooklyn man described as her boyfriend.