KINGSTON, NY — Sarra Gilbert, sister of Long Island Serial Killer victim Shannon Gilbert, has been convicted of murder for the brutal stabbing death of her mother and sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.
Ulster County Judge Donald Williams sentenced Sarra, 28, to the maximum sentence allowed by law for the July 23, 2016, stabbing death of Mari Gilbert, 52, during court proceedings Friday.
In the horrifying frenzy, Sarra stabbed her mother with a 15-inch kitchen knife an astounding 227 times, beat her with a fire extinguisher, sprayed her with the foam from the extinguisher, stripped her, and removed her jewelry.
The attack occurred after Sarra summoned Mari to come to her apartment in Ellenville after complaining she was hearing voices. According to her family, she had been battling drug addiction and mental illness for years.
During the court proceedings, Sarra sobbed briefly and asked for mercy from the judge. Her lawyers said that she was delusional due to a lifetime of abuse and mental illness. But the prosecution claimed that Sarra killed Mari because she had Sarra arrested months earlier for killing a puppy, and had temporary custody of Sarra’s young son.
Sarra’s youngest sister, Stevie Smith, called her sister “wicked” and said that the way she killed her mother was “beyond human.”
Sarra’s attorneys said that her crime was partially motivated by her family background — she had been sexually abused by one of her mother’s boyfriends, that her older sister was a prostitute with her mother’s blessing, and that her mother practiced “black magic” that led Gilbert to believe her mother was a demon.
Following the sentencing, the District Attorney’s Office dropped charges pending against Sarra for cruelty to animals and endangering the welfare of a child for drowning the family puppy in front of her young son.
Sarra’s attorney John Ray said he has filed a notice of intent to appeal both the conviction and the sentence.
Shannan Gilbert — Mari’s daughter and Sarra’s older sister — vanished in May 2010 after fleeing the home of a sex client in Oak Beach on Long Island. 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.
The search for her led to the discovery of several sets of human remains in the Gilgo Beach area over the span of a year. Many of the victims were also prostitutes. No suspects have been identified in any of the Long Island killings, although investigators believe that one or more serial killers could have committed the murders.
To learn more about the Long Island Serial Killer case, watch “The Long Island Serial Killer: The Lost Girls” episode of Investigation Discovery’s People Magazine Investigates on ID GO now!
Main photo: Sarra Gilbert [Ellenville Police Department]