With everyone staying in, now is the perfect time to watch a movie. Netflix’s true crime drama Lost Girls, which tells the tale of a mom and victim advocate named Mari Gilbert, is a popular pick — but the real woman behind the film is just as fascinating as the story itself. Learn more about Mari, a woman who fought for justice after her daughter went missing and was later found dead.
Mari Gilbert was a mom trying to find her missing daughter.
Shannan Gilbert, one of Mari’s daughters, went missing in May 2010 while working as an escort. On May 1, she called 911 for help while with a customer, but by the time police arrived on the scene almost an hour later, she was nowhere to be found. After filing a missing person’s report, Mari Gilbert pressured police officials to continue looking into her daughter’s case. Eventually, the search for Shannan led to the discovery of multiple bodies in Long Island, New York, in December 2010, as well as the realization that a single serial killer was likely at work.
When Shannan’s remains were found in December 2011, officials classified her death as an accidental drowning. Once again, Gilbert fought for her daughter, encouraging police to take another look at the investigation and classify the death as a murder. According to CBS New York, Gilbert asked federal authorities to take over the case. “I believe Shannan was murdered and that she is part of the serial killer case,” she said.
Gilbert also tried to get justice for her daughter through the civil courts, filing a suit against a man who was allegedly the last person to see Shannan alive. According to Newsday, however, much of the lawsuit was thrown out because of issues with the statute of limitations.
Gilbert later became a victim herself.
Her death wasn’t unrelated to her daughter’s. Though Gilbert didn’t become the victim of the Long Island Serial Killer, Shannan’s death and the investigation into it contributed to one of her sister’s declining mental health. Sarra Gilbert, another of Gilbert’s daughters, began suffering from delusions. According to Robert Kolker, a journalist who covered the case, one of those delusions included believing that “the people she loved [had become] possessed by demons.”
In his book Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, the basis for the Netflix film, Kolker explains how Sarra called her mother for help on July 23, 2016. Tragically, Sarra attacked Gilbert with a kitchen knife and fire extinguisher, ultimately killing her. In 2017, NBC New York says Sarra was found guilty of second-degree murder.
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