ELLENVILLE – An upcoming Netflix film will recount the story of how an Ellenville woman's search for the truth about her daughter's disappearance on Long Island led to the discovery of the work of a serial killer.
Shannan Gilbert, 24, an Ellenville High School graduate working as a prostitute, disappeared on May 1, 2010, in Suffolk County after calling 911 at 4:15 a.m. to report someone was coming after her.
Gilbert's body was not found until December of 2011.
But it was her mother Mari Gilbert's pushing police to search for her daughter, after they initially dismissed her as a runaway, that led to the discovery of 10 other bodies --eight women, a man and a child. They were found about three miles from Shannan Gilbert's.
Police believed at various times they were the victims of one or possibly two killers, but no arrests have ever been made.
“Lost Girls,” based on the New York Times bestseller by investigative reporter Robert Kolker, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will debut on Netflix on March 13.
John Ray, a Long Island lawyer who represented Mari Gilbert's interests at the time and became her friend, has not seen the film but said its scope is limited, as it only goes up to the time Shannan Gilbert's body was discovered.
”From what I've heard, it appears to glorify Mari's role” and tends to be melodramatic, Ray said.
A Long Island medical examiner ruled Shannan Gilbert's cause of death as undetermined. And police long maintained her death was not related to the others.
But Ray convinced noted forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to perform an autopsy in 2016. While he could not be conclusive, Baden said autopsy findings were “consistent with homicidal strangulation.”
Ellenville police Chief Phil Mattracion remembers the case well. Mari Gilbert first came to Ellenville police to file a missing persons report on her daughter, which he passed on to Long Island authorities.
But Mattracion said no one connected with “Lost Girls” contacted his department to check any details of the story.
“I'm a little surprised they didn't reach out to us,” Mattracion said.
Sadly, Mari Gilbert died before her quest to know the full truth about her daughter's death was completed. In 2016, she was murdered by another daughter, Sarra Gilbert.
Ray said Mari Gilbert would be “pleased” to know the film had been made, but only to a point.
“It will not matter much unless it generates new evidence or new witnesses,” Ray said.