“Just look at what you've done. You got this whole investigation started. You've helped families who've been looking for their daughter for years. You went public with your anger. You stood your ground in front of powerful men - the kind who used to take advantage of you. You stood up to me, for gosh sake. And you're tellin' me you're not good?” - Herc to Mari Gilbert

The Long island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt For Justice

Kim Delaney as Mari Gilbert


FLASHBACK: Mari, birthday blouse in hand, confronts Shannan as, in the background, Sarra cleans up after the picnic.

MARI: Where’d you get the money for this?

SHANNAN: Don’t you like it?

MARI: I love it. That’s beside the point. Where’d you get the money?

Shannan sighs, says nothing.

MARI: Are you sellin’ yourself again?

SHANNAN: How I make my money is not your business.

MARI: Everything you do is my business – I’m your mother.

SHANNAN: Since when?

MARI (not this again:) Oh please –

SHANNAN: Since I’m makin’ good money. Since I’m buyin’ nice gifts.

MARI: That’s simply not true –

SHANNAN: Well you sure weren’t much of a mother before now –

MARI: I couldn’t handle you, Shannan!

SHANNAN: You couldn’t handle your boyfriends either. What they did to Sarra –

MARI: What they did to Sarra you didn’t get! You were lucky cause you were in a foster home which was a helluva lot better than bein’ home with me.

Shannan glares – Mari’s pissed –

– and Sarra’s overheard.

The Story

Mari Gilbert’s daughter Shannon has disappeared – and when Mari goes to the police to report her daughter missing, she begins a process of discovery that eventually leads to nineteen possible murder victims, an astonishingly corrupt police department, and a personal strength that she never knew she had.  

The Backstory

My friend and producer Stan Brooks came to me in 2015 with this story, a project that Lifetime commissioned. My first draft of the script was a very different take on the tale, one in which Mari Gilbert played an important but minor role. Eventually, because there was no resolution to the story (the killer was never caught), Lifetime decided not to pursue it. Then, after Netflix told the story in a movie of their own, Lifetime decided to do their version anyway – they had found that viewership increased if their audience had heard of a similar story on another network. Nevertheless I had to re-tool my original script in a major way, making Mari the central character. Oddly enough, because Lifetime and Sony Legal were so concerned with making sure that the movie didn’t ruffle any legal feathers, we had to create some fictional characters and scenes. The movie ended up being an “inspired by,” which was fine by me. It’s still a powerful saga.