Gilgo Beach murders: Man charged with killing 3 women in Long Island serial killings

NEW YORK — Authorities have arrested a man in connection with a series of long-unsolved killings on New York’s Long Island known as the Gilgo Beach murders.

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Rex Heuermann, 59, is facing three counts each of first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Amber Lynn Costello, 27; and Megan Waterman, 22. He is considered a “prime suspect” in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25.

The four women are among the 11 people found dead near Ocean Parkway on Long Island in 2010 and 2011, sparking fears of a serial killer and prompting years of investigations.

Suspect first identified after six weeks of restarting of investigation

Update 4:40 p.m. EDT July 14: In a news conference Friday, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said that the investigation into the Gilgo Beach serial killing restarted in February 2022, according to CNN.

“Six weeks later, on March 14, 2022, the name Rex Heuermann was first mentioned as a suspect in the Gilgo case,” Tierney said, according to CNN. “A New York state investigator was able to identify him in a database.”

His arrest happened with “the power of the grand jury.” That included over 300 subpoenas and search warrants that uncovered evidence tying Heuermann to the murders, Tierney said, according to CNN.

— Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

DNA from leftover pizza crust linked Heuermann to case

Update 4 p.m. EDT July 14: Authorities matched a hair found on the bottom of the burlap used to wrap one of the victims with Heuermann after getting his DNA profile from leftover pizza crust, a bail application obtained by WCBS-TV showed.

Investigators recovered a man’s hair from the bottom of the burlap used to wrap Waterman after her death, authorities said. In 2020, a laboratory was able to create a DNA profile for the hair.

It was found to be a match to a DNA profile created from crust that Heuermann had left in a pizza box he threw away in January 2023, officials said.

Hair found on 3 victims believed to be from Heuermann’s wife

Update 3:55 p.m. EDT July 14: Authorities found hair on three of the slain women which they were able to match to Heuermann’s wife, according to court records obtained by WCBS-TV.

The hairs were found on the bodies of Brainard-Barnes, Waterman and Costello, officials said. Authorities noted that travel records showed Heuermann’s wife was not in New York at the time of Waterman or Costello’s deaths.

“As such, it is likely that the burlap, tape, vehicles(s) or other instrumentalities utilized in furtherance of these murders came from ... Heuermann’s residence, where his wife also resides, or was transferred from his clothing,” prosecutors said in the bail application.

Heuermann searched for information about Long Island serial killer case

Update 3:45 p.m. EDT July 14: Prosecutors said in a bail application obtained by WCBS-TV that Heuermann used a junk email account to search for information on serial killers, including the Long Island serial killer case, more than 200 times between March 2022 and June 2023.

Authorities said his searches included:

  • “why could law enforcement not trace the calls made by the long island serial killer”
  • “why hasn’t the long island serial killer been caught”
  • “In Long Island serial killer investigation, new phone technology may be key to break in case”

Heuermann also searched specifically for information about Barthelemy, Waterman, Costello and Brainard-Barnes and viewed “hundreds of images depicting the murdered victims and members of their immediate families.” He also searched for relatives of Barthelemy and Waterman, prosecutors said.

Cellphone records put Heuermann at the same location as burner phones

Update 3:30 p.m. EDT July 14: In a bail application obtained by WCBS-TV, officials said that cellphone and credit card records put Heuermann in the same location as burner phones used to contact three of the victims, Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello.

Records also put him in the same area as two of the victims’ phones — Barthelemy’s and Maureen Brainard-Barnes’ — when they were used to check voicemails and make taunting phone calls to family members after the women disappeared.

“Significantly, investigators could find no instance where Heuermann was in a separate location from these other cellphones when such a communication event occurred,” prosecutors said in the bail application.

Heuermann’s wife was out of town during time of 3 killings

Update 3:25 p.m. EDT July 14: Travel records show that Heuermann’s wife was not in New York around the times when authorities believe her husband killed Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello, according to court records obtained by WCBS-TV.

In July 2009, when authorities believe Heuermann killed Barthelemy, Heuermann’s wife was in Iceland. She was in Maryland when authorities believe her husband killed Waterman in June 2010. In September 2019, when officials believe Costello was killed, she was in New Jersey.

Officials noted that due to retention policies for travel and financial records, they were unable to get information to determine whether Huermann’s wife was in New York in July 2007, when authorities believe that Heuermann killed Maureen Brainard-Barnes. He has not been charged in Brainard-Barnes’ death, though investigators noted he was a “prime suspect” in her disappearance.

Heuermann pleads not guilty

Update 3:15 p.m. EDT July 14: Heuermann appeared in court on Friday and pleaded not guilty to six counts of murder in the deaths of three women found on Long Island in late 2010, CNN reported. He was ordered held without bail, according to the news station.

Video shared by WNYW showed Heuermann being escorted by officials in handcuffs. He does not speak as he was led to a waiting car.

Family of slain woman got ‘taunting calls,’ prosecutors say

Update 3:05 p.m. EDT July 14: Barthelemy’s relatives got taunting phone calls after the 24-year-old’s death which authorities believe were made by Heuermann, according to a bail application obtained by WCBS-TV.

Authorities believe Heuermann used a burner phone to contact three of the victims and that he used Barthelemy’s phone and the phone of Maureen Brainard-Barnes — one of the four women whose remains were found in late 2010 near Ocean Parkway — after their deaths.

Investigators believe Heuermann used both women’s phones to check their voicemails. He also made several calls between July 17, 2009, and Aug. 26, 2009, to Barthelemy’s family members using her phone, officials said.

At one point, the caller reached a relative of Barthelemy’s and admitted to killing and sexually assaulting her, the bail application shows.

Authorities believe Brainard-Barnes died in July 2007 and that Barthelemy was killed two years later.

Court records: Heuermann ‘prime suspect’ in death of 4th victim

Update 2:50 p.m. EDT July 14: A proposed bail application to be filed in court and obtained by WCBS-TV showed that Heuermann is the “the prime suspect” in the death of a fourth woman who was found slain near Gilgo Beach in late 2010.

Authorities believe Heumermann killed Barthelemy in July 2009, Waterman in June 2010 and Costello in September 2010. Authorities found Barthelemy’s remains on Dec. 11, 2010. Two days later, they found the remains of Waterman, Costello and Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

Prosecutors noted in the bail application that while Heuermann has not been charged in connection with Brainard-Barnes’ death, investigators have found “substantial evidence” that he was involved in her disappearance and death.

Prosecutors plan to ask that Heuermann be held without bail, citing, among other things, “his recent searches for sadistic materials, child pornography, images of the victims and their relatives, counter-surveillance conducted online as to the criminal investigation, his use of fictitious names, burner email and cellphone accounts, and his access to and history of possessing firearms.”

Rex Heuermann charged with deaths of 3 victims

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT July 14: Rex Heuermann 59, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder in connection with the deaths of three of the people found near Gilgo Beach in late 2010, The Associated Press reported.

Heuermann will face charges in the deaths of 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy, 27-year-old Amber Lynn Costello and 22-year-old Megan Waterman, according to the AP. Authorities said he is also the “prime suspect” in another killing.

A Suffolk County police canine unit found Barthelemy’s remains while searching for 23-year-old Shannan Gilbert in 2010. Two days later, authorities found the remains of three more people, including Costello and Waterman.

Officials are expected to release more information about the investigation at a news conference later Friday.

Original report: Unidentified sources confirmed the arrest to The New York Times, The Associated Press and other media outlets. In a joint statement from Suffolk County officials and the FBI, authorities said they plan to announce “a significant development in the investigation by the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation Task Force” on Friday afternoon.

Authorities identified the suspect to the Times and News 12 Long Island as Rex Heuermann, an architect who has lived in Massapequa Park for his entire life. He was arrested around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, NBC News reported.

It was not immediately clear what charges Heuermann might face or whether he’s believed to be linked to all of the 11 people found dead in 2010 and 2011 near Ocean Parkway.

Remains were discovered after authorities launched a search for Shannan Gilbert, a 23-year-old sex worker who vanished after leaving a home in the gated community of Oak Beach on May 1, 2010. Between December 2010 and December 2011, officials found the remains of nine women — including Gilbert — a toddler identified as the daughter of one of the slain women and a man who has not been identified.

A majority of the victims, who died between 1996 and 2010, were escorts, officials said. The discovery of their remains sparked fears of a serial killer, though investigators earlier determined that Gilbert’s death was likely an accident — a claim Gilbert’s family has disputed, according to the Times.

Authorities said they found the remains of 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy on Dec. 11, 2010. Two days later, investigators found the remains of 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 27-year-old Amber Lynn Costello and 22-year-old Megan Waterman.

In March 2011, authorities found the remains of 20-year-old Jessica Taylor, whose partial remains had been found seven years earlier about 45 miles to the east of Gilgo Beach in Manorville.

The following month, authorities found the bodies of a toddler girl and an unidentified man. The remains of 24-year-old Valerie Mack, whose partial remains had been found in Manorville in November 2000, were also discovered.

One week later, authorities found the remains of a woman identified as the slain toddler’s mother. The woman’s partial remains had been found in 1997 about 20 miles to the northwest of Gilgo Beach, at Hempstead Lake State Park. She was nicknamed “Peaches” because of a tattoo of a peach that she had.

Authorities also found the remains of a woman who was genetically matched with remains found in 1996 in Davis Park on Fire Island, about 18 miles to the east of Gilgo Beach.