Police in Suffolk County, New York unveiled a “significant piece of evidence” in the still-unsolved case of the Gilgo Beach, Long Island serial killer.
At a press conference Thursday, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart released photos of a portion of a belt found at the crime scene that investigators believe belonged to the suspect. The belt is embossed with two letters that, depending on the vantage point, resemble either “WH” or “HM.”
“The Gilgo Beach investigation is perhaps the most well-known and complex case this department has ever undertaken,” Hart said, a former FBI agent who became the county’s police commissioner in 2018, Newsday reports.
“It is important that the families of these murder victims know that we remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver justice and, in doing so, give a sense of closure.”
Hart did not elaborate why police were now coming forward with the belt — which they’ve had in evidence for nine years — but perhaps coincidentally, the press conference occurred on the same day that Netflix debuted the trailer for Lost Girls, an upcoming film about one of the mothers of the missing women — Mari Gilbert, mother of Shannan Gilbert — and the oft-criticized investigation.
“They had this belt for nine years,” the Gilbert family’s lawyer John Ray said Thursday (via Newsday). “Why are they releasing it now? It’s nothing but publicity pablum.”
The May 2010 disappearance of Gilbert was the catalyst for the police’s search of the marshy Gilgo Beach area off Ocean Parkway where they uncovered the remains of at least 10 people, including three missing women who, like Gilbert, were sex workers.
Gilbert’s body was ultimately found in December 2011 in the same vicinity of the victims, but investigators ruled then that she likely died by drowning and her death was unrelated to the serial killer. However, Hart admitted at Thursday’s press conference that investigators are “not necessarily certain” that Gilbert’s death was accident or homicide.
“She does not match the pattern of the Gilgo Beach homicides, but again, i want to emphasize to everyone here, we let the facts dictate where we’re going to go in this investigation.”
With interest in the Gilgo Beach serial killer likely renewed due to Lost Girls’ premiere in March, Suffolk police also launched a new website, gilgonews.com, as a catchall for information about the case, including any developments in the decade-long investigation.