Gilgo Beach

Chilling 911 Calls Released in Case of Woman Whose Disappearance Led to Discovery of 10 Bodies

Shannan Gilbert had called 911 and said someone was trying to kill her. That call lasted about 22 minutes. There were two other calls. The search for her led to the discovery of four women in burlap sacks in a matter of days

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"Somebody's after me."

Shannan Gilbert, the New Jersey escort whose disappearance triggered a police investigation that exposed a much larger mystery, uttered that chilling phrase within the first 90 seconds of a 911 call she made the night she vanished on Long Island.

It was 4:51 a.m. on May 1, 2010. Gilbert called 911 after meeting a client, Joseph Brewer, at his home in Oak Beach, a small residential community near Gilgo Beach.

That call lasted 22 minutes. 911 was called two more times. The dialogue was disorganized. At times Gilbert was coherent. At others, she slurred her words. Sometimes she didn't respond at all. And at times, she was heard screaming.

What transpired on the 911 recordings involving the 24-year-old woman the last night she was seen alive was kept secret for the 12 years until Suffolk police shared them Friday, part of an ongoing effort at transparency around the Gilgo Beach case.

Gilbert repeated that phrase -- "Somebody's after me. There's somebody after me. There's somebody after me!" -- three more times to the New York State Police dispatcher to whom the 911 dispatcher transferred the call, the audio reveals.


Listen to Shannan Gilbert's first 911 call, unedited, below.


Twice, the state police dispatcher asked for Gilbert's location. Twice Gilbert replied, "There's somebody after me." Then she said she didn't know where she was and asked if the dispatcher could trace the call. The dispatcher said she couldn't.

To that, Gilbert said, "Please. There's somebody after me."

That first 911 call continues for another 20 minutes. A man is intermittently heard in the background. Gilbert is frequently heard saying, "Please stop." She seems confused. Banging, possibly door knocks, and heavy breathing are later heard on the line, along with the voice of a man, as the dispatcher says, "Hello! Hello! Hello!"

After 22 minutes and 42 seconds, the call cuts out, with the dispatcher still trying to confirm Gilbert's location. Investigators described Gilbert's 911 calls as disorganized. At times she was coherent. At others, she slurred her words.

Sometimes she didn't respond at all. And at times she was screaming.

Shannan Gilbert had called 911 and said someone was trying to kill her. That call lasted about 22 minutes. There were two other calls. The search for her led to the discovery of four women in burlap sacks in a matter of days

Shannan Gilbert and the Gilgo Beach Serial Killings

It was Gilbert's disappearance that led to the finds of nearly a dozen other sets of remains, most of them Craigslist escorts who vanished, and while Suffolk officials have previously said they don't believe Gilbert's case is connected to the others, the families hope the 911 calls could shed some light on their outstanding mysteries.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison, a former NYPD top chief, had pledged more openness in the ongoing unsolved investigation since his appointment in 2021. Families of the victims -- those who were discovered in burlap sacks on a desolate stretch of Ocean Parkway in 2010 amid the search for Gilbert -- have been waiting years for the release of 911 calls connected to Gilbert's case.

The delay involved a previous administration, though, Harrison had said earlier this year he would release the tapes provided they didn't interfere with the ongoing investigation. In the months since, Harrison, the fifth Suffolk police commissioner to oversee the investigation, shared new video footage of Megan Waterman, one of the Craigslist escorts found dead on that remote stretch of Ocean Parkway in December 2010, and new background information on the so-called "Gilgo Four."

Suffolk County police on Tuesday released surveillance video of Gilgo Beach murder victim Megan Waterman's last moments at the Holiday Inn Express, Hauppauge in June 2010. Commissioner Rodney Harrison says investigators believe Waterman left her hotel room to meet her would-be killer.

But the 911 tapes, which longtime Gilbert family attorney John Ray has sought to have released for more than a decade, have been held until now. The Jersey City woman's skeletal remains weren't found until December 2011, well after the others.

They were located in a marshy swamp by Oak Beach, where she may have fled as she was on the phone with 911. Her manner of death was inconclusive.

Ray and Gilbert's mother, who was killed by another one of her daughters years ago, said she was murdered. Suffolk County police have long said Gilbert's case didn't appear to be connected to the others. They doubled down on that in a nearly 13-minute video explainer of the 911 calls as part of Friday's information release.

Listen to Suffolk County officials describe all three 911 calls -- and feature sound from the two not made by Shannan Gilbert -- below.

The Night Shannan Gilbert Disappeared

Gilbert, a 24-year-old escort, went missing in Oak Beach in May 2010 after her driver, a man named Michael Pak, brought her there to meet a client, Joseph Brewer. Neither Gilbert nor Pak knew the area or had met Brewer before.

Pak's voice was one of two male voices heard on the first 911 call. He is heard asking Gilbert if she is OK. Much of Brewer's responses are inaudible. Both men are heard trying to get Gilbert to leave Brewer's house. Gilbert at one point asks Pak if he's going to kill her. He asks her if she's crazy and says, "You're freaking me out."

"Ket's go back. Let's go back to Manhattan, alright? We're in Long Island, we're near the water, so the ocean," Pak says. She says "No, stop" and later begs her driver to help get her out of the home. At times she seems paranoid, based on the audio.

Eventually, Gilbert ran out of Brewer's home and to the house of a neighbor, Gus Colletti. She is still on that initial 911 call. With the line open, Colletti is heard asking Gilbert multiple times if she is OK. Breathing heavily, Gilbert replies, "I need help."

Then she runs out the door. Gilbert's 911 call ends.

That's when Colletti calls 911. It was 5:22 a.m. The neighbor said Gilbert was "running around here screaming and there's some guy trying to follow her."

The man following her was her driver, Pak. Colletti saw them near the gate to exit the Oak Beach Association. He told 911 he'd keep watching until officers arrived.

Then Gilbert knocked on another neighbor's door. That was Barbara Brennan, who reported a woman knocking on her door. She didn't know her and didn't let her in.

But "she says she's in danger," Brennan told the operator. The call ends soon after.

Gilbert ran off. Investigators believe she got disoriented in marsh reeds that can grow up to 12-feet-tall around the time of year she went missing, blocking views of the highway, the ocean and any other identifiable locators, especially in the dark.

A trench runs east and west through the marshland, much of which can be impassable when the reeds and thorns are at their thickets. Investigators think Gilbert followed the trench. Some of her belongings were found along the path.

It wasn't until December 2011, 19 months after Gilbert disappeared, that her remains were found about three-quarters of a mile from where she was last seen. An autopsy was inconclusive, both on cause and manner of death.

A private pathologist hired by the Gilbert family also found insufficient evidence to confirm a cause of death. But that pathologist did say there were signs on Gilbert's remains that were consistent with manual strangulation as a potential cause.

Details on that pathologist report were previously reported by News 4. Read it here.

Investigators continue to assert -- including in the video explainer shared Friday -- that there is nothing to suggest anyone followed Gilbert into the marsh. They believe she got lost in the high weeds and succumbed to the elements.

Police did respond to the 911 calls from Colletti and Brennan. But by the time they arrived, Gilbert, Brewer and Pak were gone. Pak's car was gone, too. Law enforcement figured that meant Gilbert was driven away, which delayed the search.

"The Suffolk County Police Department is open to evaluate any evidence to be able to help us, and all involved, determine a definite cause of death," Homicide Section Commanding Officer D/Lt. Kevin Beyrer said. "However, based on the evidence, the facts and the totality of the circumstances, the prevailing opinion is that Shannan's death, while tragic, was not a murder and was most likely an accident."

The 'Gilgo Four'

Seven months after Gilbert vanished, in December 2010, the remains of Waterman and three other women were found in burlap sacks within a quarter-mile of each other on Ocean Parkway. All were Craigslist escorts. All had been strangled.

In April and May of 2011, the remains of six other individuals were also found.

Investigators haven’t been able to determine whether a lone serial killer or several suspects were involved, but they have said over the years they don't believe one person is responsible for all the deaths. No arrests have been made, and no suspects have ever been publicly named in any of the cases.

The reward is now $50,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with tips about the victims or a potential suspect or suspects is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

The so-called "Gilgo Four" -- Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costella -- were discovered during the search for Gilbert.

Harrison recently released additional background information on them in hopes of eliciting more tips and again providing greater transparency about the victims.

While none of the details were particularly enlightening from an investigative perspective, they shed more light on the women behind Long Island's infamous case. Here are the latest details on the Gilgo Four as provided by Suffolk County:


Maureen Brainard-Barnes

Maureen Brainard Barnes

Suffolk police said that Brainard-Barnes, believed to be the first victim among the "Gilgo Four," was a 25-year-old living in Norwich, Connecticut, when she went missing. They said it is believed she took an Amtrak train from New London to New York City on July, 6, 2007

She spent her time in the city working as a prostitute, advertising on Craigslist, Backpage and other sites under names like Juliana or Marie as she stayed at a Super 8 Motel on West 46th Street, between 5th and 6th avenues. Brainard-Barnes, who stood just under 5 feet tall, would travel to Manhattan to work for a few nights before going back home to Connecticut, according to investigators.

While in the city, she also stayed at a Red Roof Inn on West 32nd Street, the Carter Hotel on West 43rd Street and the Manhattan Hotel on 8th Avenue. Sometimes she would be with another woman — a friend who worked out of a different hotel room — and a man, who both women referred to as their cousin, police said. That man would provide a level of security for the two sex workers.

Brainard-Barnes traveled with the other woman to the city the weekend she went missing, but the woman went back home early. On July 9, she called a friend back in Connecticut just minutes before midnight, telling them she was going to meet someone outside of the motel, which was not what her typical operating procedure, according to Suffolk police.

Five days later, a friend reported Brainard-Barnes missing to police in Connecticut, and soon the NYPD took over the investigation. More than three years later, on Dec. 13, 2010, her body was found on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during police's search for Gilbert, who had gone missing from Oak Beach.


Melissa Barthelemy

Barthelemy, 24, went missing on July 12, 2009 after she was last seen at her basement apartment on Underhill Avenue in the Unionport section of the Bronx, investigators said.

The 4-foot-10-inch tall escort advertised on Adult Friend Finder and other sites, often using aliases Chloe and "VerySexyChloe," and had the words "Blaze" and "Focus" on her back, along with letters on her chest, according to police.

Barthelemy, who was said to meet her clients at bars, restaurants and hotels on Manhattan's West Side, told a friend the night she went missing that she was going to meet a man and would be back in the morning. The friend knew Barthelemy was an escort, but didn't know any other details about the meetup that night.

Melissa Barthelemy
Handout
Melissa Barthelemy

After not hearing from her or being able to reach her for a few days, Barthelemy's mother reported her missing to the NYPD on July 18.

Cellphone records show that Barthelemy went from the Bronx to Manhattan, likely in a taxi, on the night of July 12. An investigation then revealed that her cellphone signal was picked up in the Long Island towns of Freeport, Massapequa and Lindenhurst.

Suffolk police said that Barthelemy's sister got a series of taunting phone calls from an individual using her cell after she went missing, and the calls are believed to have come from the killer. The calls were made from an area near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, and near Penn Station.

Authorities looked into the areas, but were unable to establish any leads due to heavy car and foot traffic nearby.

Barthelemy's body was found almost a year and a half later, on Dec. 11, 2010. While she was the first victim found, police believe she was actually the second one killed, after Brainard-Barnes.

Police are looking for help identifying a woman whose torso washed up on a Mamaroneck beach in 2007, and legs washed up on the north shore of Long Island not long after. The only identifying feature: a tattoo of cherries on her chest — a clue that could potentially link her to the Gilgo Beach Killer. NBC New York’s Ida Siegal reports.

Megan Waterman

The 22-year-old Waterman, a resident of Scarborough, Maine, was a sex worker who also utilized the same websites as the other victims, according to police, using the names "Lexxy "and "Sexy Lexi." Her family watched her board a New York-bound bus in Maine, not knowing that would be the last time they would see her, with a man who may have been her pimp.

While she was known to stay at a variety of hotels and motels on Long Island, including the Extended Stay America in Bethpage, Waterman was staying at a Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge on June 6, 2010, an investigation found.

She left around 1:30 a.m. that day to meet a client, according to police — but told her pimp, who was in Brooklyn at the time, that she was going to a convenience store near the hotel.

megan waterman1

Family reported her missing to police in Maine on June 8, after they said it was unlike her to not call and check in on her then-3-year-old daughter. The Scarborough police contacted the Suffolk Police Department to assist in the investigation, and her body was found on Dec. 13 later that year.

Investigators believe she was the third of the "Gilgo Four" victims. Her pimp was later arrested and convicted on interstate trafficking charges, spending three years in federal prison in Jan. 2013. However, there is no indication he had any knowledge or in any way participated in Waterman's death, police said.

Suffolk County police on Tuesday released surveillance video of Gilgo Beach murder victim Megan Waterman's last moments at the Holiday Inn Express, Hauppauge in June 2010. Commissioner Rodney Harrison says investigators believe Waterman left her hotel room to meet her would-be killer.

In April 2022, Harrison released the last known surveillance video of Waterman, at the Holiday Inn Express in Happauge. The footage shows multiple angles from the lobby on June 4, 5 and 6 of that year. She was wearing a yellow sweater and is shown both arriving and leaving the hotel.

Harrison said investigators believe Waterman left the Holiday Inn the night of June 6, 2010, to meet her killer. He also shared an image of jewelry discovered on the remains of a toddler whose bones were recovered during the investigation (see below).

gilgo toddler investigation
Handout
On April 4, 2011 a gold necklace and earrings were discovered on the unidentified female toddler.

Amber Lynn Costello

The oldest of the "Gilgo Four" victims, Costello was 27 when she went missing in September 2010, having last been seen by acquaintances, the investigation has found.

She had multiple tattoos, including "Kaos" on her neck, a butterfly on her lower back and the name "Margeret" on her leg.

Costello, a heroin addict at the time, was living in West Babylon on Long Island with another woman and two men, each of whom was similarly addicted to drugs. In order to support their collective addictions, Costello and the other woman advertised as sex workers on Craigslist and Backpage; Costello used the names Carolina or Mia, police said.

She had moved to New York from Clearwater, Florida, and completed 28-day drug rehab, but police believe she had relapsed before going missing.

amber lynn costello
Amber Lynn Costello

Sharing a cellphone with her roommates, Costello and the others would arrange dates with clients, doing both "in-calls" at the house and "out-calls" elsewhere. Police said that the roommates concocted a scam for the clients who came to the house, as after money had already been paid, one of the male roommates would say that Costello was his girlfriend, and the client would take off.

She was last seen leaving the home on America Avenue on Sept. 2, 2010, going to meet a client picking her up at the house. Costello didn't have a cellphone on her at the time, and was never reported missing.

On Dec. 13, during the same search for Gilbert, Costello's body was found on the north side of Ocean Parkway.

Police revealed evidence in one of Suffolk County's most notorious criminal cases that they've been holding onto for nine years. Police believe initials were embossed on a black belt found at the crime scene, but offered no details on where it was found or how it may have been used. NBC New York’s Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

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