|About Mari Gilbert
|June 22, 1964
|July 23, 2016 Ellenville, New York
|Sarra Elizabeth Gilbert, Sherre Gilbert, Stevie Gilbert Smith, Shannan Gilbert
|Junerose C. Gran, John W. Cox Sr.
|Ellenville, New York
|Jersey City, New Jersey
|Elroy J. Shulterbrandt
Mari Gilbert launched a crusade to solve her daughter, Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance and death. Her personal investigation led to the uncovering of the Gilgo Beach murders, but the truth behind Shannan’s death remains inconclusive. Amy Ryan plays Mari in Netflix’s compelling retelling of Mari Gilbert’s quest for the truth, Lost Girls, which premieres on March 13. Several questions still remain, especially about what happened to Mari’s hunt for answers. Our Mari Gilbert wiki elaborates more on this mother’s struggle to find out what happened to her daughter.
Mari Gilbert Was a Mother of Four Daughters
Mari Gilbert was born on June 22, 1964 to John W. Cox Sr. and Junerose C. Gran. She was originally from Jersey City, New Jersey.
Mari was mother to four girls, with Shannan (born on October 24, 1986) being the eldest. Her three other daughters include Stevie Gilbert Smith, Sherre Gilbert, and Sarra Elizabeth Gilbert.
At some point, Mari left her daughters’ father and moved with them to live in Ellenville, New York. She was briefly separated from her children, who were put into foster care. But she managed to regain custody of Stevie and Sherre. Meanwhile, Shannan and Sarra lived in foster homes for a while.
Shannan, who graduated from a high school in New Paltz, Ulster County, began working as an escort when she was 20 to earn money while trying establish a singing career.
Mari worked as a department store manager at her local Walmart. She kept active with her multiple hobbies and watching over her grandsons. But it’s her advocacy for an investigation into her daughter’s death that would become her biggest priority.
Mari’s Daughter Shannan Mysteriously Died
Shannan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her youth, but stopped taking the medication because she claimed it gave her the shakes. Shannan worked multiple odd jobs after graduating from high school, before moving to New Jersey with her boyfriend in 2007 and working as an escort.
Shannan posted ads on Craigslist, offering her services for $200.00 an hour. She reportedly made about $600.00 a night, and was soon able to move into her own place in Jersey City. She was taking online college classes and visited her family often to lavish her sisters and their sons with expensive gifts.
In May 2010, Shannan arrived at the Oak Beach, Long Island residence of Joseph Brewer, a man who hired her off Craigslist. Shannan would later behave erratically and run away into the night. That would be one of the last times Shannan was seen alive.
In December 2010, a detective doing a training exercise with a cadaver dog found human remains on Gilgo Beach. The remains were not of Shannan, as the body didn’t have the titanium plate in the jaw that Shannan had to get after she was assaulted some years before.
Nonetheless, a thorough search found the remains of at least four bodies. The victims, who were reportedly strangled, had similar profiles to Shannan—escorts who looked similar to Shannan and advertised on Craigslist. More remains would be discovered in the subsequent months, but Shannan was not among them.
Investigators believed there was a serial killer at large in the area. The killer would come to be known by many names, including Long Island Serial Killer, LISK, Gilgo Killer, Gilgo Beach Killer, and Craigslist Ripper.
However, authorities had doubts that Shannan was the victim of the same killer who killed these four women. Her remains still hadn’t been found at that point, and Mari was holding on to hope that her daughter was still alive.
But on December 13, 2011, a year after the first set of bodies were found, Shannan’s remains were found in a marsh at Oak Beach, less than a mile from where she was last seen. Her clothing and personal effects were found in the vicinity a few days before they found her body.
Authorities believed Shannan was the victim of an accidental drowning. The medical examiner ruled her death as inconclusive. However, for Mari and her family, that was unacceptable.
Mari Fought to Have Her Daughter’s Case Investigated
The Gilberts were dissatisfied by the investigators’ ruling of Shannan’s death as an accidental drowning. They strongly believed she was murdered and wanted her death to be reinvestigated as a homicide. Mari contended that the search for Shannan had led to the discovery of the other murdered women, and that Shannan’s death was connected to them.
Mari and her family hired an attorney, John Ray, with whose help they got an independent medical examiner, Dr. Michael Baden, to perform an autopsy. The medical examiner found signs of homicide by strangulation.
He also concluded that Shannan was found belly-up, an unlikely position for someone who drowned. However, without the soft tissue of the body, Baden couldn’t definitively say it was a homicide.
The Gilberts and Ray also approached several persons of interest and possible witnesses. Peter Hackett, a surgeon who was previously employed by the local police department, became a polarizing person of interest for possibly drugging Shannan the night she disappeared. Mari claimed that Hackett had contacted her after Shannan’s disappearance, saying that he ran “a house for wayward girls.” Call records showed that he called Mari two days after Shannan disappeared.
With Ray’s help, the Gilberts filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hackett for allegedly facilitating Shannan’s death. But police ruled him out as a suspect.
A key facet that leads Mari to believe her daughter was murdered was her behavior the night she disappeared. Shannan had run away from Brewer’s home and pounded on the doors of Brewer’s neighbors.
She had called 911 from Brewer’s home and was screaming for help from the neighbors. Ray fought to obtain the 911 audio for years to find out what Shannan was afraid of that night.
His attempts had been denied because, according to Ray, the police didn’t believe she was a homicide victim and there was no need for an active investigation.
Mari Was Killed by Her Daughter
Mari wanted to listen to Shannan’s 911 audio from the night she disappeared. The New York State Supreme Court gave the Suffolk County PD 20 days to hand over the dispatcher recordings and transcripts to the Gilbert family estate in 2018.
However, the police department appealed against the ruling, claiming that the audio was part of an ongoing investigation. Ray continues to fight for the tapes, but Mari is no longer alive to be able to listen to them.
Mari and her surviving daughters had a funeral for Shannan in March 2015. The following year, Mari would be killed on July 23, 2016, by her younger daughter, Sarra. She was 52.
Mari was found dead in her daughter’s home in Ellenville. Sarra, then 27, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and fourth-degree possession of a weapon.
Sarra reportedly suffered from mental illness and has a history of schizophrenia. A few months before she killed Mari, she reportedly killed her pet puppy in front of her child. Mari then took custody of Sarra’s eight-year-old son.
Sarra had stabbed Mari to death more than 200 times, hit her with the fire extinguisher, tried to drown her in the extinguisher foam, and attempted to decapitate her. She pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Stevie Smith, Sarra’s younger sister, denied that Sarra is mentally ill. She said that she was enraged that Mari took custody of her son and alleged her sister is a drug abuser.
Sarra was convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Mari died without getting the closure she sought for Shannan’s death. She is survived by her daughters; her then-fiancé, Elroy J. Shulterbrandt; four grandsons; a sister, Lori Grove; and extended family. Mari’s obituary doesn’t mention Sarra, but she is alive.
Her younger daughters, Stevie and Sherre, continue the crusade with the help of Ray and regularly post updates on social media.
Happy 32nd birthday Shannan!You are loved and missed every day! I can’t believe it’s been 8.5yrs since I’ve seen your face or heard your voice. Until we meet again; sleep with the Angels 🙏🏼