Did the LI Ripper kill Shannan Gilbert?
In all the talk about the Long Island "Jack the Ripper" case and the four murdered women already identified, one name is standing out: Shannan Maria Gilbert. She's the 24-year-old New Jersey woman who went missing last May and started this whole ball rolling. Without the search for Gilbert, police would not have discovered the four decomposing bodies in Oak Beach, Long Island last December, nor the four more discovered over the weekend about a half-mile away, leading authorities to believe that a serial killer is on the loose on the South Shore.
The case is being named after the famous "Jack the Ripper" murders in London in the 1800s because all of the victims so far have been prostitutes, as was Gilbert.
But here's where the mystery deepens: Shannan Gilbert was not one of the bodies found last December. She was not one of the bodies found this past weekend. So where is she?
Police being interviewed on the TV and radio said they fully expected Gilbert to be one of the four recent bodies. It makes perfect sense based on the last time Gilbert was seen alive on May 1, 2010, in the same general area off Ocean Parkway near Cedar Beach where the bodies were found.
Gilbert, who charged $250 an hour, drove to the small town on Long Island's South Shore with a driver, supposedly her pimp, to see a client she had arranged to meet on Craigslist -- another common denominator with the four previous victims.
She stayed a few hours in the residence of her john, only to emerge at 5 a.m. in the morning in total hysterics. She ran out of the house and called 911 in a call that lasted 23 minutes. Police believed her to be drunk and delusional -- she was reportedly bipolar and a known drug abuser. Then she knocked on a neighbor's door, who also called police. Gilbert was last seen running down the road around 6 a.m., about five minutes before cops arrived. They were too late.
Gilbert hasn't been seen since that night. One can only believe that she met some type of sinister end at the hands of the LI Ripper or another fiend, which would be incredibly sad. Looking at her picture, Gilbert was a troubled but beautiful young woman who didn't have to choose this path in life, who could have had a different future someday.
Whether you believe in life after death or the supernatural or not, you can't dismiss the fact that Gilbert is responsible for leading police to the beach where a police dog on a training exercise smelled a decaying body.
That her body was not one of the ones found last winter or last weekend makes me wonder if she's not ready to be found just yet, that she has more work to do -- possibly from beyond the grave -- to bring this heinous individual to justice and finally put the spirits of his or her victims, including Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Megan Waterman, 22, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 28, and Melissa Barthelemy, 24, to rest once and for all.
An even eerier footnote: A psychic hired by Brainard-Barnes' family about a year ago told police exactly where the woman's body would be found, in a shallow grave overlooking the water.
Do you think Shannan Gilbert fell victim to the LI Jack the Ripper?