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A Serial Killer in Common

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The women gather again for dinner, where they talk about the joint vigil they’re planning on Ocean Parkway, along Gilgo Beach, on June 11. The purpose, Cann says, is to persuade people to come forward with information and keep pressure on police to crack the case. “I may never get closure,” she says. “But that’s still a place where my sister was. And I just feel like that community has to see the families. All they care about is the values of their houses and how their community looks.”

The women can’t understand why people aren’t as upset as they’ve been about similar cases. “Look at Natalee Holloway,” Overstreet says. “People should have been elbow to elbow out there, walking for this girl, Shannan Gilbert. Why not? What makes her disappearance any different?”

“They’re like, ‘We’re not worried because it’s not like a murder of regular people,’” Cann says. “I want that community to know that these girls had families that love them.”

“They don’t want the attention,” says Gilbert. “There’s doctors there, lawyers there, cops there. They don’t want to be associated with that kind of behavior.”

After dinner, we go back to the hotel lobby to say good-bye. The women seem wilted. The hugs start. “We’ll be friends till the end,” Ela says. “Even after they find him. We’ll all be friends till we all go upstairs.” Ela has handed each of the others identical trinkets she picked up in a shop in Maine before coming here. They’re little pink hearts with angel wings. “It’s because the girls are all in our hearts,” Ela says, “and they’re all in heaven.” The other women love them.

Gilbert likes the trinket too. “I always worked for, like, normal-class people, like $14 an hour,” she says. “But Shannan just liked really expensive things. I don’t know who she picked it up from.”

Gilbert remembers the night Shannan disappeared and their phone call. “I said, ‘Look, Shannan, you coming is my gift. You don’t have to bring me a present, just come home.’” After hanging up, she texted Shannan: Be safe.

And right away, her daughter answered: I always am.


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