Judge orders release of Shannan Gilbert's 911 call

Gilbert was a key figure in the Long Island serial killer case. Suffolk Police have refused to turn over the tape to her family.

It has taken a full decade, but we may soon learn more about the final moments in the life of 25-year-old Shannan Gilbert, who disappeared from a beach community on May 1, 2010, on Long Island, New York. 

Long Island Serial Killer
Shannan Gilbert, 23, was an online escort who went missing on May 1, 2010, after visiting a client in a gated community in Oak Beach, Long Island.  Michael Pak

The Suffolk County Police Department has been ordered to release a recording and transcript of a 911 call Gilbert made before she vanished. The recording, described by the former Suffolk County Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone as a panicked call for help, was made at 4:51 a.m. on May 1.  Gilbert, a sex worker who had gone to a client's house in a gated community known as Oak Beach, reportedly told a 911 operator that "There's someone after me …  they're trying to kill me." Varrone said two male voices are also heard in the background.

By the time police responded to the call an hour later, Shannan Gilbert had disappeared. Her body and possessions were recovered in nearby marshland a year and a half later in December 2011.

Extra: Retracing Shannan's path

John Ray, an attorney hired by Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, sued to obtain the 911 call as part of a wrongful death action in 2012. Lawyers for the Suffolk County Police Department have long fought the release, arguing that it would jeopardize its ongoing investigation. But in 2018, a judge disagreed and ordered the evidence to be released. That decision was affirmed this month by the New York State Appellate Division.

john-ray.jpg
Attorney John Ray addressed reporters Thursday in Miller Place, Long Island, after the Suffolk County Police Department was ordered to release a recording and transcript of a 911 call Shannan Gilbert made before she vanished on May 1, 2010. CBS News

The Suffolk County Police Department must now either file another appeal or hand over the audio recording. At a press conference Thursday, Ray told reporters that he would give the department a week before he took further legal action.