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Wednesday
Dec072011

Shannan Gilbert Search: Female Accessories Found at NY Shore

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images(SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y.) -- Investigators have firmly linked evidence found in a search near Long Island, N.Y., beaches to Shannan Gilbert, who disappeared in 2010 near the swampy area that Suffolk County Police have searched for three days, officials told ABC News.

Searchers found a woman's purse and shoes after they donned wet suits to comb the swampy area, sources said.

The evidence they found did not include human remains, the sources added.

A medical examiner's team was on the scene Wednesday, but sources said remains discovered during the search were identified as animal remains.

Reports that human remains were found were inaccurate, multiple officials told ABC News. Reports that a woman's stockings were found were also inaccurate.

Investigators have opened the purse and examined its contents, but would not discuss in advance of a media briefing what they believe firmly linked the evidence to Gilbert. Media reports have suggested the purse may have contained identification.

Currently, Gilbert is believed to be a missing person and not the victim of either an apparent serial killer believed to have dumped numerous corpses by the shore beach or of another killer.

However, because the remains have not been found and homicide cannot be completely ruled out, investigators face a dilemma over what information can be released. Were the case to be a homicide, under the law, authorities would be strictly limited on what they could release.

Ten sets of dismembered human remains have been found in the area, believed to be the work of a single serial killer who dumped his victims' bodies there.

In fact, there is a strong likelihood that Gilbert was not murdered at all, sources said, but was a victim of cold water and strong currents after possibly falling in to the water.

On the night of her disappearance, witnesses told police Gilbert did not appear to be acting rationally. She was last seen in May 2010 apparently running from someone near the search area.

The renewed effort began Monday under FBI direction and using information gleaned from past FBI flyovers with sensitive photography equipment able to see down through ground cover.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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