Officials investigating 11 dead bodies found on Long Island since 2010 are trying to tamp down rumors that they've identified a suspect.
"Unfounded, anonymous Internet postings or rumors about who may be a suspect should be given the appropriate weight they deserve by those who read them," said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota's office in a statement yesterday.
"It should be remembered that this unsubstantiated 'gossip' can cause substantial harm and emotional trauma, not only to members of the families mentioned in the Internet postings, but also to the families of the victims."
The Internet has been abuzz with speculation that the DA's office and Suffolk County police are hot on the trail of a suspect. One story that gained traction online was that the killer committed suicide when he learned that his arrest was imminent, the Long Island Press reported.
Police have denied that they're poised to make an arrest.
The case began in December 2010 with the disappearance of 24-year-old escort Shannan Gilbert who was seen screaming and running from a john's Oak Beach home. The search for her turned up the remains of 10 other people -- including several reported female prostitutes -- in dense vegetation along Ocean Parkway.
A lawyer for Gilbert's family said that her relatives and he have been inundated with calls about the suicide of the alleged suspect.
"It's a rumor that's been flying about and gathering steam for weeks," John Ray told The Huffington Post. "It's become a frenzy."
But the family hasn't been swept up in the expectation that police will make an arrest.
"We keep our eye on everything," Ray said, "but we filter out what's dubious."
Gilbert's body was found in a marsh last December. A week ago the medical examiner's officer announced it couldn't determine a cause of death.
Police said they believe Gilbert accidentally drowned, but Ray called that explanation "absurd." The family believes she was murdered.
The statement from Spota's office said the mainstream media has peppered law enforcement officials with hundreds of inquiries about the accuracy of the web-based gossip. County police and the district attorney said they won't talk about the case again until they "have additional information...that serves the public or the investigation by its release."
In addition to Gilbert, eight women's remains have been found, one man and one female toddler, according to the Long Island Press. Some victims haven't been identified yet, according to the Associated Press. A serial killer -- or killers -- could be responsible for several of these deaths, police have said.