A sex worker whose 2010 death was ruled a ‘tragic accident’ was murdered in a similar way as the ‘Gilgo Four’, a lawyer representing her family has claimed.

Shannan Gilbert’s body was found in a marsh near Gilgo Beach a year after police found the bodies of four other sex workers wrapped up in burlap sacks on the sand.

Police have long maintained that Gilbert, 23, died in a drug-induced drowning. But John Ray claims she was murdered by a serial killer who has not yet been identified. 

He says a second autopsy on her body proves she was strangled to death, just like Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27.

Architect Rex Heuermann, 59, has since been arrested in Melissa, Megan and Amber’s deaths, and is a prime suspect in Maureen’s.

The lawyer representing Shannan Gilbert’s family says she was strangled to death, much like the so-called Gilgo Four whose bodies were found on Gilgo Beach in burlap sacks

Gilbert's body was found in a marsh nearby one year after the discovery of the bodies of Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27

Gilbert's body was found in a marsh nearby one year after the discovery of the bodies of Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27

Gilbert’s body was found in a marsh nearby one year after the discovery of the bodies of Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27

Heuermann is not, however, charged in Gilbert’s death — and Ray has never insinuated that Heuermann may have killed her. 

Ray said he has long had questions about the Suffolk County police’s assertion that Gilbert died in a drug-induced drowning.

‘When the police claimed she had wandered into the marsh and managed to kill herself, when I had seen the autopsy report where she’s found face-up laying in the bush, and the police had claimed she drowned, that didn’t make any sense,’ Ray told the US Sun.

A  second autopsy conducted by Dr. Michael Baden found that Gilbert ‘met a violent end, that she was strangled.

‘When we looked at the bones, we were able to discern that the very small, significant hyoid bone in the neck was cracked on one edge,’ Ray explained, adding the doctor also found a hole at the base of Shannan’s hyoid bone.

‘It appears to be something was either drilled or push through that bone and we couldn’t determine what that was, but it was highly unusual.’

With questions on his mind about the police’s drowning explanation and what he called a ‘fallback position,’ where local authorities also claimed she could have died from natural elements after getting lost in the marsh, Ray said he decided to take a look at the marsh himself.

‘I don’t believe Shannan ever entered the marsh,’ he asserted, noting that he went into the marsh on the same day Shannan disappeared a year before, under similar weather conditions.

Ray entered the marsh at the same location, which he said was difficult to bypass, ‘but you can get in.’

On ‘either side of the marsh, there were escape routes easily found,’ Ray continued.

‘It would be absurd to say somebody got lost in the marsh and died because they couldn’t get out,’ he said, explaining that when walking in the marsh, ‘the loam you walked on was damp and sometimes had a little water that would come up over, say the tip of your boot.

‘And that was about it, it wasn’t deep at all,’ Ray said.

‘Even if she fell into the canals, they weren’t deep,’ he said. ‘They’re like not even waist deep — they’d come up to your thighs for an average person.’ 

Architect Rex Heuermann, 59, has been arrested and charged in Melissa, Megan and Amber's deaths, and is a prime suspect in Maureen's

Architect Rex Heuermann, 59, has been arrested and charged in Melissa, Megan and Amber's deaths, and is a prime suspect in Maureen's

Architect Rex Heuermann, 59, has been arrested and charged in Melissa, Megan and Amber’s deaths, and is a prime suspect in Maureen’s

The first victim, Melissa Barthelemy from New York, 24, was discovered by Suffolk County Police on December 11, 2010

The first victim, Melissa Barthelemy from New York, 24, was discovered by Suffolk County Police on December 11, 2010

Megan Waterman, 22, from Maine

Megan Waterman, 22, from Maine

The first victim, Melissa Barthelemy, 24, was discovered by Suffolk County Police on December 11, 2010. The body of Megan Waterman, 22, was found two days later

Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 25 years old when she went missing

Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 25 years old when she went missing

Amber Lynn Costello was 27 years old when she disappeared

Amber Lynn Costello was 27 years old when she disappeared

Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 25 years old when she went missing (left). Amber Lynn Costello was 27 years old. Their bodies were found near Barthelemy’s the same day

Shannan was last seen running out of Joseph Brewer’s house, who was a client, on the day she disappeared before running to a neighbor’s house for help.

Neighbor Barbara Brennan then called cops at around 5.30am on May 1, 2010, just a few minutes before dawn. 

‘So twilight would’ve been the condition, not pitch darkness,’ Ray said. ‘So the police theory that she got lost in the dark and got confused is absurd.

‘In fact, as we went through the marsh, as we progressed, we could see our way into the homes that lined from Oak Beach that lined the marsh on the south side of it.’

Former Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer also claimed Shannan ran through the bramble, which pulled her jeans off.

‘First of all, any girl who wears jeans — they’re not baggies like in the hippie days — they’re tight jeans and they don’t come off because sticker bushes pull them as you go through the marsh,’ Ray said, dismissing the notion.

‘How do you get them off? You have to take them off or somebody’s gotta take them off for you.

‘So then they argue, well he panicked and in her panic, because she was on drugs, she was hallucinating and she got wet and she took off her pants.

‘That’s absurd as well,’ he said, noting there is ‘zero evidence’ Gilbert was on drugs the day she vanished.

He also said in a previous interview that Shannan was wearing a bra in photos taken of her body and the band that attaches the two cups was cut in half. 

State Police and crime lab teams continue to comb Heuermann's Massapequa Park home. A lab worker is pictured at the home Saturday

State Police and crime lab teams continue to comb Heuermann's Massapequa Park home. A lab worker is pictured at the home Saturday

State Police and crime lab teams continue to comb Heuermann’s Massapequa Park home. A lab worker is pictured at the home Saturday

Troopers said a 'major excavation' is taking place at the home of New York architect Rex Heuermann. Pictured are State Police investigators gathering evidence at the scene

Troopers said a 'major excavation' is taking place at the home of New York architect Rex Heuermann. Pictured are State Police investigators gathering evidence at the scene

Troopers said a ‘major excavation’ is taking place at the home of New York architect Rex Heuermann. Pictured are State Police investigators gathering evidence at the scene

Police are now investigating whether Heuermann may have been involved in any other murders, searching his property in Massapequa Park, Las Vegas and in rural South Carolina.

On Sunday, police brought in cadaver dogs to search the premises of his ramshackle Long Island home.

Aerial footage of the scene also revealed groups of investigators in Heuermann’s backyard digging up earth and bagging evidence.

The search came after a neighbor told local police they believed at least one woman was killed in a soundproof room in Heuermann’s basement.

Robert Musto, 64, one of Heuermann’s longtime neighbors, told the New York Post: ‘He’s got a soundproof room in his basement. What do you think that was for?’

‘This guy is a wacko,’ the retired Long Island Rail Road worker added – claiming he heard about the basement from police, who have been searching the scene since Heuermann was arrested July 13. 

‘They’re saying there’s evidence he killed at least one of the girls down there,’ Musto said. ‘The cops are going to dig all that out. Said they’re focused on the soundproof room in the basement but they’re going to look at everything.’

Police also said that ‘cops are looking for evidence if the victims were in the house, nothing yet.’

Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to the murders.

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