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Gilgo Beach killings suspect Rex Heuermann charged in 4th death; DNA on daughter's can helps link him to slayings

Court documents released Tuesday said DNA from an energy drink can that Heuermann's daughter discarded helped tie him to the suspected serial killings.
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RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — Rex Heuermann, the man who has been charged with the murders of three sex workers on Gilgo Beach, New York, was charged Tuesday with a fourth killing after DNA from his daughter’s discarded energy drink can helped tie him to the slayings.

The charges in the suspected serial killings, unsealed Tuesday at the Suffolk County Courthouse in Riverhead on Long Island, are in connection with the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, whose remains were found near Gilgo Beach.

Heuermann was considered a prime suspect in her death. He has already been charged in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, all found in high weeds near Gilgo Beach.

He pleaded not guilty to the new charges, his attorney said.

Rex Heuermann appears in court  with his attorney Michael Brown at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, N.Y., on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.
Rex Heuermann appears in court Tuesday with his attorney Michael Brown at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, N.Y..James Carbone / Pool

Heuermann remained silent during Tuesday's brief court appearance. His estranged wife, Asa Ellerup, was in attendance.

“He’s looking forward to fighting these charges and we’re doing that,” attorney Michael Brown said at a news briefing. 

Heuermann’s being held without bail.

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney said Brainard-Barnes was an "intellectual" and a writer who "cared deeply about the people she loved."

"She was a devoted sister, mother, daughter," he said at a news conference. "She is sorely missed by those that loved her. It has been an honor and a privilege to work these cases and provide that small measure of closure for the family members."

Brainard-Barnes’ daughter, Nicolette, was 7 years old when her mother was murdered. Court documents state that Brainard-Barnes had been restrained by three leather belts.

Female hair found on a buckle of one of the belts tied Heuermann to the crime, officials said.

“Her loss drastically changed the trajectory of my life,” Nicolette Brainard-Barnes said at a news conference. “There were countless times I needed her and she was not there. I remember she read to me every night and now I can no longer remember the sound of her voice. I wish she was here today, but she was taken from us.”

She said the indictment “has brought hope for justice for my mom and my family.”

The remains of all four women — known as the "Gilgo Four" — were discovered in December 2010 when authorities were searching for Shannan Gilbert, a sex worker who vanished May 1, 2010.

Gilbert, 23, was reportedly last seen running through the gated community of Oak Beach after leaving a client’s home, according to a police case timeline. Her remains were not found until December 2011.

Heuermann was connected to the deaths of Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello in part by his wife's hair, officials said. It was found at the crime scenes and led authorities to believe that items used in the killings, such as burlap sacks and tape, came from their home.

Cellphone data and DNA obtained from a discarded slice of pizza were also used to link Heuermann to the deaths, authorities said. The court documents released Tuesday also detailed how undercover agents followed Heuermann's 26-year-old daughter onto the Long Island Rail Road and used her discarded Java Monster can to link him to the slayings.

Heuermann's wife and children were traveling out of state during all four killings. The documents state that this allowed him "unfettered time to execute his plan for each victim without any fear that his family would uncover or learn of his involvement in these crimes."

He was arrested in July as detectives surrounded him outside his Manhattan architecture office. Heuermann pleaded not guilty to three charges of first-degree murder and three charges of second-degree murder in the killings of Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello.

Gilgo Beach victims
Clockwise from top left, Shannan Gilbert, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Valerie Mack, Amber Lynn Costello and Megan Waterman. Suffolk County Police

The remains of Brainard-Barnes were discovered along Ocean Parkway on Dec. 13, 2010, according to authorities. Her remains were found along with the remains of Costello and Waterman. Barthelemy's remains were found Dec. 11, 2010.

All four women worked as Craigslist escorts and were last seen between July 2007 and September 2010, according to the case timeline.

Brainard-Barnes' sister, Melissa Cann, became emotional as she talked about the death. She said her sister is "more than how she's been portrayed."

"She was first and foremost a loving mother, a caring sister and a giving friend," Cann said through tears. "With the loss of Maureen came unimaginable pain and panic. My life shattered with the confirmation of Maureen's death."

Several other sets of human remains were uncovered during the search for Gilbert, including the partial remains of Jessica Taylor, the remains of 24-year-old Valerie Mack, a female toddler, a man, the toddler's mother, and an unidentified person.

Heuermann is not suspected in all of the deaths and he has not been charged in the deaths of Gilbert, Taylor or Mack.

His next court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6.

Carolina Gonzalez and Emilie Ikeda reported from Riverhead and Minyvonne Burke from Pittsburgh.