Welcome to Tell-Tale Crimes. This column will aim to provide a look at both local and national crimes and cases that are sometimes interesting, sometimes relevant, and sometimes both, from the perspective of a true crime enthusiast. From the Black Dahlia, to the Cecil Hotel, to Richard Ramirez, Southern California is ripe with historical and current crimes that are worth a story.
So here I am writing scary stories, both local and national, and true ones at that.Thank you for reading.
We all have our fears: a fear of the dark; a fear of spiders; maybe a fear of clowns. Many of us can take solace in the fact that most of our fears are irrational. There are no monsters in our closets that are going to get us in our sleep, and there is no clown in the sewer that is going to eat our arms off. But what if our fears are rational? What if there is recorded evidence that our fears are out there, waiting for the right moment to strike? In 2010, Shannan Gilbert reminded us of that possiblity.
Gilbert, a Craigslist sex worker, was last seen alive on May 1, 2010, running from her driver and client into the night in Oak Beach, Long Island. The client, Joseph Brewer, was a first-timer who had hired Gilbert to come to his home in Oak Beach and provide her services. Gilbert accepted the job in order to earn money to buy her mother, Mari Gilbert, a gift for her birthday.
During the date, Gilbert began acting erratically, which prompted Brewer to enlist the help of Gilbert’s driver, Michael Pak, to end the date. Gilbert had a history of erratic behavior and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, though she was not taking any medication. While still at Brewer’s home, Gilbert placed a 23-minute 911 phone call, claiming that someone was “trying to kill [her],” according to Rolling Stone. She then ran from Brewer and Pak down the street. Many neighbors claimed to have seen her running frantically around the neighborhood, banging on doors and screaming for help before disappearing into the night. By the time police responded to calls, Gilbert was gone. They searched for Gilbert, but had no luck.
Seven months later, on Dec. 10, detective John Mallia was doing a routine exercise at Ocean Park Way with a K9 in training when they discovered a set of skeletal remains in a disintegrating burlap sack. Initially, investigators thought that Mallia had found Gilbert, and the investigation was over. However, after searching the area for further evidence, Mallia discovered three more sets of remains. The four bodies were all missing sex workers: Melissa Barthelemy, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Amber Costello, and Megan Waterman; all petite women who had been in their 20s when they were killed. They were found near the secluded waterfront called Gilgo Beach, and became known as the Gilgo Four. The NYPD worried they had a serial killer on their hands.
The discovery of these remains led to a further search of Nassau County. In late March and early April 2011, four more bodies were discovered, bringing the count up to eight possible victims. Five days after these remains were discovered, an additional set of human remains were found, as well as a separate human skull, bringing the body count to 10. According to NBC New York, on Nov. 29 of that year, police announced that they believed that all 10 victims were the result of one killer, who was definitely from Long Island. They had a serial killer on their hands.
But the question remains: where was Shannan Gilbert, the girl who started it all?
Part 2 of this article will be published in the next issue of the Quaker Campus.