Gilgo beach victim’s family announces lawsuit in Riverhead

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Mari Gilbert (right) and her attorney John Ray (center) before Thursday morning’s press conference outside state Supreme Court in Riverhead.

The mother of Shannan Gilbert — whose body was found in the Gilgo Beach area last year  — was in Riverhead Thursday to announce a lawsuit against an Oak Beach doctor the mom alleges negligently gave Shannan narcotics before her death.

The lawsuit was filed in civil court and names Dr. Charles Hackett as responsible for Ms. Gilbert’s death in late April 2010.

Her body was discovered in December 2011, and police have not linked her death to several other bodies found along the ocean beaches. Suffolk police believe the other killings came at the hands of a serial killer or serial killers.

Police investigators have said they ruled out Dr. Hackett as a suspect in the killing.

The suit alleges that Ms. Gilbert, who was working as a prostitute at the time of her disappearance, fled to Dr. Hackett’s house claiming that she was in danger and that Dr. Hackett administered drugs to her at his home.

John Ray, an attorney for the family, said at a press conference outside the state Supreme Court building in Riverhead the suit is based off his office’s independent investigation of the case.

While there is no direct evidence proving that Dr. Hackett was responsible for Ms. Gilbert’s death, Mr. Ray says he has ample circumstantial evidence in the case, though he stressed that the lawsuit was a civil case for malpractice and negligence, not a criminal case.

“It is our purpose in doing this to not only seek justice, civil justice, for Shannan, but also to seek justice for her mother and for her family,” Mr. Ray said. “Through this lawsuit  …  we seek to discover what the police have not yet discovered or have not yet tried to discover.”

Dr. Hackett could not be immediately reached for comment.

Mr. Ray said he has not had contact with Suffolk County police about his investigation’s findings.

The suit also alleges that Dr. Hackett called Ms. Gilbert’s mother, Mari, the day after Shannan disappeared to say that he had her in his home and that he would like to put her in a shelter for wayward girls he claimed to run.

“I do believe in my heart that Dr. Hackett played a major role in my daughter’s death,” she said, adding that she would not stop until she found out what happened to her daughter.

“Someone has to fight for justice and for the truth,” she said.

[email protected]