Name: Shannan Maria Gilbert
Age: 24 years old
Last seen: May 1, 2010
Location: Oak Beach, New York
Status: Found deceased in 2011.
Disappeared: Season 5 Episode 14 “Footprints in the Sand”
24-year-old Shannan Gilbert was last seen in Oak Beach, New York on May 1, 2010. She disappeared after visiting a client on the south shore of Long Island.
Shannan Maria Gilbert was born on October 24, 1986 to Mari Gilbert and her then-partner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest of four sisters.
When her parents separated, the family moved to Ellenville, New York. Before her mother regained custody of them, Gilbert and her siblings grew up living in foster homes for a while.
Gilbert attended New Paltz High School in Ulster County, New York. After graduating from high school in 2003, she worked multiple jobs as a hotel receptionist, an Applebee’s hostess, and a snack prepper at a senior center.
In 2007, Gilbert moved to New Jersey and rented a $1,200-a-month condo. To earn money, she began getting listed on Craiglist as an escort in 2009. She also took online courses offered by Phoenix University in communication to get out of the prostitution business.
During her youth, Gilbert was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She also had a history of drug abuse that often manifested itself as irrational behavior. Gilbert was once assaulted during her escorting and needed a titanium plate in her jaw.
On May 1, 2010, Gilbert was dropped off by her driver and bodyguard, Michael Pak, on Fairway Drive in the beachfront community of Oak Beach to meet a client, Joseph Brewer, around 2:00 am.
Gilbert has been contacted for a “date” through Craigslist to attend a party. She stayed at her client’s two-story wood frame house for a while before allegedly behaving erratically.
At 4:51 am, Gilbert called 911 from her cellphone and appeared to scream for help. She was recorded saying “someone was after her ” and was trying to kill her. When asked for her location, she was unable to give it to the 911 dispatcher.
Around 5:00 am, while she was still on the 911 call, Gilbert fled the house and banged on the door of a nearby resident who let her in. The resident tried to calm her down and call 911 himself, but she ran off the door soon afterward.
When the Suffolk County police finally arrived at 5:40 am Shannan Gilbert was gone. She never returned home and has not been heard from again.
On May 3, 2010, her family filed a missing persons report to the Suffolk County Police Department.
Following Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance, Joseph Brewer and Michael Pak were investigated by the police. On the twenty-three minute long 911 call, both people’s voices were heard. They later passed a polygraph test.
Police did not find any evidence of wrongdoing and both people were not named suspects in the case.
46-year-old Oak Beach resident, Joseph Brewer, hired Shannan Gilbert through an escorting ad from Craigslist, amid a separation from his wife.
Brewer stated that shortly after her arrival at his residence that evening, Gilbert began acting erratically. He went outside and brought the driver inside to get her to leave his house.
Brewer denied having sexual contact with Gilbert that night. He claimed that he didn’t know why she fled into the night and that he never harmed her.
41-year-old Michael Pak drove Gilbert to the location that night in a black SUV. He was hired as a bodyguard and driver in return for one third of her earnings.
When Gilbert went inside Brewer’s residence Pak stayed in the vehicle. He was later called for help by Brewer because she was reportedly behaving erratically.
Pak stated that he tried to follow Gilbert when she ran off from the house. He looked around Oak Beach but she went out of sight. He subsequently returned to his SUV and left without her.
Gilbert reportedly did drugs with clients in the past, and Pak suspected she was acting strangely because of a bad reaction to drugs and alcohol.
Skeletal remains found in Oak Beach, Long Island
In December 2011, police discovered a pair of jeans, a pair of shoes, and a pocketbook later identified as belonging to Shannan Gilbert in Oak Beach, Long Island.
On December 13, 2011, the skeletal remains of Shannan Gilbert were found in a marshy area, about half a mile from where she had disappeared and a quarter-of-a-mile away from where her belongings were discovered a week earlier.
On May 1, 2012, Shannan’s autopsy was released by the medical examiner, but the cause of death wasn’t able to be determined and it was ruled as inconclusive. Investigators believed she died by accidental drowning after she ran into the thick marsh and got lost.
Long Island serial killer
Since late 2010 eleven bodies, nearly all young women, have been discovered on the South Shore of Long Island, New York.
The victims, who were reportedly strangled, had similar profiles to Shannan Gilbert and were listed as escorts on Craigslist. Authorities believe the young women were murdered by an unidentified serial killer over a period of nearly 20 years.
The victim’s bodies were then abandoned along the Ocean Parkway, near the remote beach towns of Gilgo and Oak Beach in Suffolk County, and the area of Jones Beach State Park in Nassau County.
On July 13, 2023, Rex Heuermann was arrested in connection with the investigation. He’s been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello.
Shannan’s 911 Calls Released
On May 13, 2022, the three calls Shannan placed to 911 on the night she disappeared were released by the Suffolk County Police.
The Suffolk County Police had fought against releasing the calls, saying they thought it might impede their current investigation. The calls were finally released today, in an ongoing effort at transparency surrounding the the Gilgo Beach murders case.
The Gilbert family strongly believes that Shannan’s death was related to the Long Island serial killings and wants her death to be reinvestigated as a homicide.
A $25,000 reward is being offered by the Suffolk County Crime Stoppers for information leading to an arrest in the Long Island serial killer case.
The circumstances of Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance remain unclear and her case is still open and active. Her case remains unsolved.
If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert please contact the Suffolk County Police Department at (631) 852-6000 or call 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).
Resources & Further Information
News & Media Links
Missing woman’s kin: Cop response not quick – News Day 12/10
On Long Island, Police Search For Missing Woman – NPR 04/11
Officer and His Dog Play Key Role in Hunt for Remains – The New York Times
Gilbert vanishing reaches one-year mark – News Day 04/11
Jersey City prostitute still missing after 13 months of searching – New Jersey 06/11
“48 Hours” uncovers missing escort Shannan Gilbert’s final minutes – CBS News 07/11
Judge orders release of Shannan Gilbert’s 911 call – CBS News 07/13
Shannan Gilbert autopsy consistent with strangulation – CNN 02/16