Who was Shannan Gilbert? True story behind Lifetime's 'The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice'

The upcoming Lifetime movie 'The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice' is based on a true story about a serial killer who killed mainly escorts

                            Who was Shannan Gilbert? True story behind Lifetime's 'The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice'
Kim Delaney in 'The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice' (Lifetime)

Streaming platforms are always on the search for content based on real-life events. The storylines instantly make a connection with the viewers and give them a reel-life perspective of a particular event that shocked the entire world. One such movie that is set to take the viewers on a roller-coaster ride is Lifetime’s upcoming project ‘The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother’s Hunt for Justice’.

The true-crime movie revolves around a woman named Mari Gilbert and her search for the truth behind what happened to her daughter Shannan, a sometime escort who disappeared after a ‘date’ on Long Island. The movie is based on one of the most notorious criminals of all time - the Long Island Serial Killer.


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With the release of the movie just around the corner, there comes some curiosity — who is the Long Island Serial Killer? What’s his real-name? And why did he kill so many women? The story of the upcoming movie revolves around the notorious Long Island Serial Killer, an unidentified suspected serial killer who has killed 10 to 17 people over a period of nearly 20 years. The serial killer grabbed all the attention after the disappearance of the 24-year-old female escort, who was reported missing on May 1, 2010.

Shannan Gilbert (Facebook)

According to the investigation, Gilbert was last seen running from one of her client’s home in the Oak Beach area. Authorities launched an extensive search after finding a body in the same area and what happened next was something even more terrifying. Two days later police officers found three more bodies on the north side of the Ocean Parkway. Finding four bodies in the same area sent shockwaves among the people, with police saying that recovering four bodies from the same area was “not a coincidence”.

Police did not stop the investigation and began searching for more bodies. To everyone’s horror, in 2011, four more bodies were discovered in another area off the parkway, near Osk Beach and Gilgo Beach. There was a sense of panic among the people of Long Island who started to give the police a lot of information that could lead them to the killer. Meanwhile, some believed that the killer is a rogue police officer who has served in the area.

Suffolk County Police and police recruits search an area of beach near where police recently found human remains on April 5, 2011 in Babylon, New York. (Getty Images)

However, Det. Lt. Kevin Smith categorically said that the rumors are baseless. Smith said, “For anyone to come out and say that it’s a specific person, a specific occupation, or a specific type is unfair and I think it’s mere suspicion, it’s mere speculation. Right now, it could be anybody.” In the next few weeks, an additional set of partial human remains were found along with a separate skull. After an extensive search for almost a year, Shannan Gilbert’s remains were found in a marsh about half a mile from where she had disappeared. A week earlier, they had found some of her clothes and belongings in the nearby area.

Identity of the Killer

According to various media reports, the serial killer is most likely a white male who is very familiar with the South Shore of Long Island and is in his mid-20s to mid-40s. A former resident of Long Island, Joel Rifkin, may have been responsible for all the murders. However, he denied having a role in any of the killings.

Joel Rifkin (YouTube)


Four out of the 10 bodies or remains found since late 2010 were identified as missing prostitutes. Apart from them, police were able to identify only two other victims. Names of the identified victims were: Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthélemy, Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello, Jessica Taylor, and Valerie Mack. It will be interesting to see how Lifetime tackles the movie because Shannan Gilbert’s case is still “unsolved.”

The movie will exclusively premiere on Lifetime on Saturday, February 20, at 8 pm ET and stars Kim Delaney and Katherine Isabelle in pivotal roles.

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