A missing prostitute whose disappearance led New York police to stumble on a serial killer's dumping ground on a secluded beach is not among the eight bodies who investigators have found and identified, police said today.
Shannan Gilbert, 24, disappeared in May 2010 after arranging online to meet a client for sex. Her disappearance triggered a search in the scrub brush along a remote beach halfway between New York City and the Hamptons, a popular summer getaway spot.
In December police found four skeletal bodies, all of them women and all of them prostitutes, but none were Gilbert. This week, cops found another four bodies. Those bodies have not been identified, but Suffolk County Police said today none of the remains belonged to Gilbert.
Cops obtained DNA samples of Gilbert's family last year and were able to quickly check the remains against those samples.
The police conclusion suggests that Gilbert is possibly a ninth victim of a serial killer.
"The search of the area will continue tomorrow," Suffolk County police said in a statement today.
Cops in rain slickers searched the brush along Gilgo Beach again today looking for the bodies of more women potentially killed and dumped in the thick vegetation, while other detectives are working to create a profile of the man who is stalking prostitutes online and killing them.
Suffolk County police are keeping a tight lid on many of the investigation's details, commenting publicly only on the search efforts -- the canine units with cadaver sniffing dogs, and a dozen police recruits from the academy brought in to help search for bodies.
Experts outside the investigation consulted by ABC News, said cops are compiling a vast database of clues and working up a profile of a single serial killer suspected of killing at least eight women, most of them prostitutes, and dumping their bodies on Gilgo Beach over four years.
In December, while searching for Gilbert, police stumbled on the killer's dumping ground, an area that has turned out to be a 7-mile stretch of beach as more bodies were discovered this week.
Body Count for Long Island Serial Killer May Grow
The deaths are likely the result of a single killer who knows the area well, said Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant and former FBI agent who has investigated dozens of high profile cases including the death of Washington intern Chandra Levy and the 2001 anthrax mailings.
"Given the volume of bodies in one location, it tells me the killer is very familiar with this stretch of road. He grew up there, works there, lives there, or has a reason to frequent area. He feels comfortable stopping on that road at least eight times and dragging women to the sea grass line without worrying about being caught," Garrett said.
Though the profile of the Long Island killer is specific to the clues he has left behind, experts say there are typical traits many killers tend to have.
On average serial killers are white men between the ages of 20 and 40. They were often abused as children, but rarely have criminal records. They typically do not travel far to commit crimes, preferring instead areas they are familiar with and which they can move about without raising suspicion.
Serial killers are also often underemployed, said Garret, and clues at the beach may help investigators determine his job, an important step in narrowing the circle of suspects.
"Some of the women were wrapped in burlap bags," said Garrett. "It's possible that that those bags came from some aspect of his life. Did they have fertilizer in them? Did they have coffee? What might that mean about his job?"
Garrett, however, said that does not mean investigators should immediately assume the killer is a "blue collar transient type."
Instead it's feasible that the killer "leads a normal life," he said. He "could be married and functions well in society. But he has this other dark side to his personality."
Gilbert, like the other identified women, was a prostitute. She disappeared on May 1, 2010 after arraigning to meet a client through Craigslist. An oak Beach, N.Y., resident told authorities that a woman he believes was Gilbert came to his home at 4:45 a.m. that morning. She fled when he tried to call police.
Serial killers often target prostitutes, said Jack Levin, a criminology professor at Northeast University who studies serial killers.
"The most common victims are prostitutes. They're easy prey. They get right in the car with a killer. Families are slow to file missing person reports and there is little pressure on police to solve the case because it's a criminal killing a criminal," he said.
Police would not confirm the genders, ages or identities of the newly discovered bodies. They would not comment on the level of decomposition or whether these bodies, like the others, were wrapped in burlap.