Shannan Gilbert’s sister claims she prefers jail over psychiatric hospital

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ELLENVILLE, N.Y. -- Sarra Gilbert, younger sister of a central figure in the Gilgo Beach serial killer investigation, appeared in shackles in a village court Tuesday in Ellenville, New York. Judge Matthew J. Parker denied bail, citing the murder charge 27-year-old Gilbert is facing in the fatal stabbing of her mother.

"I love my family, and I'm sorry," Sarra said as she was led into court from an Ulster County Sheriff's van.

Sarra Gilbert also resisted her attorney's request that she get a psychiatric exam.

Sarra Gilbert

Sarra Gilbert

Long Island lawyer John Ray has represented the Gilbert family for four years, demanding the Suffolk County police release 911 calls connected to the serial killer investigation.

The upstate judge, who knew Sarra from previous criminal cases, gently told her she would be returned to jail, if an exam was done at a nearby psychiatric hospital.

"We're not going to put you away somewhere," the judge reassured her. "That is not going to happen."

Gilbert was charged Saturday with stabbing her mother multiple times, after summoning 52-year-old Mari Gilbert to her apartment on Warren Street in Ellenville, complaining she was hearing voices. Sarra's sister, Sherre, wrote on Facebook that Sarra was battling a mental illness for the last 2 1/2 years.

Mari Gilbert was a leading figure in the fight to get justice for her oldest daughter, Shannan, who was 24 when she vanished from Oak Beach, Long Island in May 2010.

Shannan had advertised escort services on Craigslist.

The Suffolk County search for Shannan in December 2010 turned up four bodies wrapped in burlap near Ocean Parkway, about three miles west of Oak Beach in Gilgo Beach. All of the victims had worked as Craigslist escorts.

Six more victims of a serial killer were discovered in the spring of 2011. Shannan's body was found in an Oak Beach marsh in December 2011, and the Gilbert family never accepted the Suffolk County Medical Examiner finding that Shannan had drowned.

Yolanda Cianci was one of the spectators who turned up in village court Tuesday. She told PIX11 she knew Sarra and her sisters since they were young girls.

Cianci cried as she related that Sarra Gilbert was abused, as an adolescent, by one of her mother's boyfriends. She said Sarra was also introduced to powerful drugs like OxyContin in the last ten years. OxyContin is a highly addictive opiate that is considered a gateway drug to heroin use.

County prosecutor, Emmanuel Nneji, shot down the bail request for Sarra Gilbert.

"Ms. Gilbert is a significant flight risk," he told Judge Parker. Nneji also pointed out that Gilbert was out on bail, accused of violating an order of protection, when she stabbed her mother.

Sarra had previously been accused of drowning a puppy in front of her 8-year-old son and threatening the child.

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