The Gilgo Beach Killer (2023 Lifetime)

The Gilgo Beach Killer (2021 Lifetime and re-released 2023 Lifetime)

Cast: Kim DelaneyKatharine Isabelle

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Synopsis (via Lifetime)

The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother’s Hunt for Justice tells the story of Mari Gilbert’s search for the truth behind what happened to her daughter Shannan, a sometime escort who disappeared after a ‘date’ on Long Island. (2021)


2023- Due to updates in the case, Lifetime re-released this true crime movie re-titled as, The Gilgo Beach Killer. The movie’s executive producer and Emmy Award-winning journalist Deborah Norville, who will provide updated and new details about the case. Rex Heuermann was arrested and charged with the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Amber Costello, and Megan Waterman. More info on the case here.

A young woman named Shannan makes a phone call with a John while holdings a stuffed bunny. She leaves for the night and tells her mom Mari and sister Sarra that she will be back later. Of course, she doesn’t come back later, and Mari goes to the police to report a missing person. They don’t care Shannan is a sex worker. (Wait, her mom knows her daughter and is cool with it? Progressive!

Mari goes to Shannan’s pimp and then the John’s house. Shannan was freaking out the night she went missing, hiding behind a couch and calling 911. She ran from house to house screaming for help and claiming someone was trying to kill her. Mari calls a detective friend of hers to try and get things moving with the case. Detective Gilbert isn’t much help either, so Mari talks to an ex-cop named Herc Zimmerman. They finally get the sniffing dogs out and find a graveyard of skeletons wrapped in burlap along the beach. They were sex workers. Shannan is not one of the bodies.

Shannan and Sarra had a hard upbringing in the foster care system, while Mari tried to get her life together. 

Mari is still convinced her daughter is alive despite the other sex workers being found. She pushes the detective to keep looking. The detective interviews an older man named Dr. Hackket because he made a call to Mari. He is very defensive. 

Mari sets up a home office. (Complete with a printer!) and gets to doing her own online research and downing wine. She goes to memorial services for the other women who were murdered. Mari works with the victim’s friends Jillian and “Maureen’s friend” (I missed the name) to get more answers. Then she goes home and drinks from a jug of wine. (Gross.) 

Six more bodies are found and turn out to be cold cases. It seems like the bodies of sex workers are being strangled and bodies scattered around Long Island. Dating back to the 90’s. The police have made no connections with 19 murders. Shannan’s body is one of the 19 found. 

Police chief Burke fires the detective on the case because he is looking into the serial killer too closely, but he blames it on budget cuts. Then police chief Burke questions the coroner about the case as well. He is shady and probably the killer or at least responsible for a cover-up.

A reporter starts looking into the case and starts uncovering information. She interviews a woman named Amy who shares that James Burke sexually assaulted her. He got away with it because he is a cop. The reporter promises to make things right. 

Mari stops her drinking and gets serious about finding justice. She demands a copy of the 911 call. Mari listens to the call, and it is understandably emotional for her. She then goes to prison and talks with a serial killer. He tells her to look into local nurseries to if she can make any connections to the killer. Mari starts to think the police are covering up the murder of her daughter and calls the reporter, Leanne Cavanagh. They set up a tell-all interview with the families of the victims. 

A druggie breaks into Burke’s car and finds handcuffs and sex tapes. He is taken into custody and badly beaten into silence. Then they shoot him up with drugs if he ever talks. 

The police obtain DNA evidence and convict someone else of the murders. Mari calls off her search and thinks that justice has been served. The FBI shows up and arrest James Burke for attacking the druggie in the holding cell and the corruption in the police department is uncovered. In an update we learn that Mari is later murdered by her daughter Sarra, which is tragic.

Side Note

Minority Report: Herc, Coroner, Jillian, Maureen’s friend, 

This movie was boring. The case is interesting but not well depicted here. RIP Shannan and to all the women murdered.

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*Photo Credit: © 2021 Lifetime® | A+E Networks®

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