Hamptons crime festival removes Gilgo Beach panel after backlash from victims' families

Attorney John Ray said the victims' families received overwhelming support that shows the community is listening to their concerns.

Rachel Yonkunas

Apr 1, 2023, 2:34 AM

Updated 379 days ago

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Two weeks before opening night, the Hamptons Mystery and Crime Festival is cancelling one of their true crime panels out of respect for victims' families.
The festival was created as a community event for fans of mysteries, thrillers and true crime stories. An hourlong panel discussing the Gilgo Beach murders was one of their main events.
East Hampton Village officials said they decided to pull the panel after it received backlash from some of the Gilgo Beach victims' families.
"It wasn't our intention to hurt anyone or be salacious," said Carrie Doyle, a village trustee. "We didn't want to create any distraction. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. This all came out of, honestly, genuinely a good idea to do stuff for our community and for our businesses."
Doyle said the festival was created as a unique way to bring off-season events to the East End. In addition to true-crime discussions, the festival will have escape rooms, murder mystery trivia and graveyard tours.
Those entertainment events triggered Jasmine Robinson, cousin of Gilgo Beach victim Jessica Taylor. She raised concerns with News 12 and said she felt the festival was making a mockery of her tragedy.
Now that the panel has been cancelled, she feels like her voice matters.
"To see that there are good people out there who helped fight the fight to make them do what was necessary, it means a lot," Robinson said. "I think it hopefully educated people to separate the line between true crime for entertainment and true crime in real life."
Attorney John Ray, who represents families of Taylor and Gilgo Beach victim Shannan Gilbert had previously called on Village Mayor Jerry Larsen to boycott the festival. He said the families were prepared to sue over emotional distress.
Since then, Ray said the families received overwhelming support that shows the community is listening to their concerns.
"It also shows that they're listening to the media, to Channel 12, for example," Ray said. "You featured it, and once you did that, everything changed so it did get their attention."
With this issue behind them, Doyle is hoping to put the focus back on the festival. More than two dozen fiction and crime writers are expected to attend. A new panel analyzing cold cases will replace the discussion on the Gilgo Beach murders.
"We have experts who are going to be analyzing crimes and talking through the process of identifying crimes and at the end of the day, all we all want is justice for the victims," Doyle added.


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