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Gilgo Beach murders: Rex Heuermann charged with 3 counts of first-degree murder

The suspect has been identified as Rex Heuermann, 59. He is the owner and founder of a Manhattan architecture firm.

A man was charged Friday in the Gilgo Beach murders on Long Island in New York, a case that baffled investigators and captured the country's attention for more than a decade.

Rex Heuermann, 59, of Massapequa Park, a village in Nassau County on Long Island, pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder.

"Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks amongst us, a predator that ruined families," Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said.

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What we know about the Gilgo Beach murders case

We knew suspect was watching, Suffolk County DA says

Prosecutors and investigators worked to keep details secret because they knew Heuermann was watching, the district attorney said.

“We knew we were playing before an audience of one person,” Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney said at a news conference today.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Heuermann searched the internet for details about the cases, about the task force formed to investigate the Gilgo Beach killings, and also about the “Long Island serial killer” and the victims.

Tierney said the searches about how the task force could or was trying to use cell phone information supported their focus on keeping developments secret.

“We knew that this person would be watching, and we didn’t want to give him any insight into what we were doing,” Tierney said. “And we also didn’t want him to know just how close we were getting.”

Discarded pizza also played a role in California case

One key to the arrest of the suspect in the Gilgo Beach murders, a top prosecutor said, was discarded pizza crust — a food that led authorities to identify a California serial killer more than a decade ago. 

In January, after officials started focusing on Heuermann, detectives saw him throw a pizza box into a trash can on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, according to a bail application filed in the case. The crust inside was analyzed by two forensic crime laboratories, it states. 

The second lab determined that DNA on a swab of crust matched the mitochondrial DNA profile of male hair found on burlap used to restrain and transport victim Megan Waterman. 

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney said today that familial DNA was used to connect Heuermann to the other DNA evidence.

Pizza was connected to a high profile serial killer prosecution in 2010, when Los Angeles authorities revealed a discarded crust was used to extract DNA.

The crust was matched to the son of Lonnie Franklin Jr. through a state offender database, and it helped lead to his father’s conviction. Franklin was convicted of 10 murders as the “Grim Sleeper” because of a 14-year gap in his attacks.

Franklin died on death row in 2020 amid a moratorium on capital punishment in California.

Suspect has permits for 92 guns, DA says

Heuermann has permits for 92 firearms, Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney said.

The weapons were yet to be accounted for, he said, but they might be found under a number of search warrants to be filed or executed in the case.

Tierney suggested at Friday's news conference that the guns are in a safe at Heuermann's Long Island home.

"He has a very large safe in which guns are kept," he said. "We’re continuing to execute search warrants, so I’m sure we’ll have that answer shortly."

It wasn't clear if he believes any of the firearms may have been involved in the attacks. Tierney said the victims' remains were in poor enough condition that they may not provide detailed evidence of the victims' last moments.

"Forensically there was not a lot that could be done with the remains," he said.


Suspect was patronizing sex workers, arrest had to be made for fear he'd kill again, DA says

Heuermann was continuing to seek out sex workers, raising fears from police and prosecutors that he could kill again, officials said.

“This individual was a person that continued to patronize sex workers at all hours of the night,” Suffolk County DA Raymond Tierney told reporters. “He continued to use fictitious email addresses, fictitious identities, burner phones.” 

The moment of pulling the trigger on an arrest was a consensus decision, according to the prosecutor.

“So as we worked through the case and we got closer and closer and we built the evidence, suddenly the balance tips in favor of public safety," Tierney said. "So I think we all wanted, as a task force, to continue it. But I think we collectively thought it was time to strike that balance and take him off the streets."

 

Police call serial killer suspect a 'demon that walks amongst us'

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison labeled accused serial killer Rex Heuermann a “demon” and thanked investigators for their work that ended in the suspect’s arrest

“Ladies and gentlemen, Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks amongst us, a predator that ruined families.” Harrison told reporters. “If not for the members of this task force, he would still on the streets today."

Mother of Gilgo Beach victim says suspected serial killer should ‘suffer at the hands of other inmates’

The mother of one of the Gilgo Beach victims says she hopes the suspected serial killer will “suffer” in prison.

“I’d like him to suffer at the hands of other inmates,” Lynn Barthelemy said Friday in an interview with NBC News. “Let him receive what the girls received.”

“Death is too good for him,” Barthelemy added. “It’s too easy.”

Among the breaks in the case were calls made on Melissa Barthelemy’s burner phone to her family members in the days after her 2009 disappearance, according to a bail application made public Friday.

The “taunting phone calls,” in which the male caller admitted to killing and sexually assaulting Barthelemy, were traced to a location in midtown Manhattan near Heuermann’s then-office, the bail application says.

NBC News previously reported that officials believed the alleged killer used Melissa Barthelemy’s cellphone to repeatedly call her teen sister after the killing. 

“We knew all along that the phone calls were going to be key,” Lynn Barthelemy said.

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Neighbor says suspect seemed like 'everyday businessman,' postal worker says his house was 'creepy'

To some neighbors, Rex Heuermann seemed like an "everyday businessman."

Neighbor Barry Auslander, 72, said he'd see Heuermann taking the Long Island Rail Road into work in the early mornings, always in a suit and with a briefcase.

“He doesn’t look like he’s looking for any kind of trouble,” Auslander said.

However, it was "perplexing" to Auslander that Heuermann, who owns a Manhattan architecture firm, would live in a rundown red house some call "creepy."

“How does a man who owns an architect firm live in a ramshackle house with his family?” he said.

After so many years without answers, Auslander said many believed the Gilgo Beach murders would become a cold case.

"Then all of a sudden, technology catches up to you," he said.

Crystal Booker, 30, has regularly been delivering mail to Heuermann’s home for the last several months but said there were times she didn't want to deliver there "because it looked creepy."

She described the suspect’s surrounding neighborhood as “quiet” with “friendly people,” but said she never interacted with Heuermann personally.

“I probably saw him once or twice, but I never actually handed him the mail — thank God,” Booker said.

“I’m a little shaken up because I’ve done this route a few times and to hear it, it’s kind of like, wow,” she added. “I’m just blessed to be here and I’m happy I’m not one of the victims.”

Tearful suspect appears in court, tells lawyer: 'I didn't do this'

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Courtney Brogle

Brittany Kubicko

Courtney Brogle, Brittany Kubicko and David K. Li

Heuermann broke down in tears in front of his lawyers and insisted on his innocence, the defense team said.

He appeared in a Long Island courtroom, dressed in causal business attire, and was formally told of the multiple murder charges filed against him.

Before he was ordered held without bail, Heuermann pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in the first degree and three counts of murder in the second degree.

Defense lawyer Michael Brown said he just met his client, who was in tears.

"We just got appointed on this case. There’s not much I can tell you folks at this point in time," Brown told reporters outside the court. "I will say to you folks that it’s extremely circumstantial in nature. In terms of speaking to my client, the only thing I can tell you that he did say, as he was in tears, was 'I didn’t do this.'"


Shannan Gilbert's client, who saw her the day she vanished, praises suspect's arrest

Joseph Brewer, one of the last people to see Shannan Gilbert, whose disappearance led to the discovery to the Gilgo Beach murder victims, praised the arrest of Heuerman.

Gilbert worked as an escort and had visited Brewer, a client, at his Oak Beach home the day she disappeared in May 2010, police said. Calls to 911 reveal she left in a panic and knocked on neighbors' doors before vanishing. 

Her remains were ultimately found in December 2011 in the Oak Beach marshland. 

The search for her remains led to the discovery of the “Gilgo Four.” Heuermann has been charged in connection with three of those slayings, but not in Gilbert’s disappearance. 

“Mr. Brewer & his Family want to convey their deepest sympathies for not only the family of Ms. Shannon Gilbert, but to anyone that has been affected by these mass tragedies. With a suspect now in custody, it is their hope that some Justice will be served to the families of those who were so tragically lost,” a statement by Brewer and his family shared by his attorneys at Ramcharitar Law Firm.

The statement said Brewer has been cooperating with law enforcement since the beginning of the search for Gilbert.

"The onset of the immediate adjudication of Mr. Brewer being involved in these atrocious acts has not only placed an immovable blemish on a good man’s life, but placed him and his family in in a position of stereotypical treatment as one can imagine," the statement said.

"We are fully behind any and all efforts to bring Justice to these families, and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement to any extent possible during these hard times," it concluded.

Hair of suspect’s wife also found on 3 Gilgo Beach victims

The hair of Heuermann's wife was found on or near three of the victims, prosecutors said in a bail application.

A hair was recovered from the buckle of one of the belts found binding the body of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

Two female hairs were recovered on the body of Megan Waterman, who was found bound by tape. One hair was found from “outside the head area” and another from “the tape of the head area.” 

Another female hair was found on a piece of tape inside burlap wrapping found on the body of Amber Costello. 

All those female hairs were sent to an outside forensics laboratory, which in July 2022 determined they belonged to a woman who was not any of the victims. 

On July 21, 2022, an undercover Suffolk County Police Department detective recovered 11 bottles from a trash receptacle in front of Heuermann’s home. The bottles were swabbed and the samples sent for testing.

In February, the lab concluded that one of the DNA profiles generated from the bottles matched the same “mitochondrial haplogroup” as the female hairs recovered from the three victims. 

Based on the investigation and evidence, it was determined the hair belonged to Heuermann’s wife. 

As the investigation found that Heuermann’s wife was out of state at the time of the three women’s disappearances and murders, “it is likely that the burlap, tape, vehicle(s) or other instrumentalities utilized in the furtherance of these murders came from Defendant Heuermann’s residence, where his wife also resides, or was transferred from his clothing.”

Suspect used burner phones for 'sadistic, torture-related' searches, prosecutors say

Heuermann used burner phones and multiple email accounts to search for sites depicting sexual violence, to keep up with the ongoing investigation and to reach sex workers, prosecutors said.

He used fictitious names for email accounts and phones "to conduct thousands of searches related to sex workers, sadistic, torture-related pornography and child pornography," according to a criminal complaint filed against him.

Search terms often focused on violent sexual acts involving underage girls.

His online search records also showed an interest in the case itself, with queries such as "why hasn't the long island serial killer been caught" and "why could law enforcement not trace the calls made by the long island serial killer.'

DNA from discarded pizza crust used to identify Heuermann as suspect

Heuermann was in part identified as the suspect in the notorious Gilgo Beach murders by DNA left on pizza crust he threw out in a Manhattan trash can, according to his bail application.

In the examination of victim Megan Waterman’s body, a male hair was recovered from burlap used to wrap her remains. It was submitted for further DNA analysis in July 2020 and a DNA profile for the hair was created. 

Following the discovery of the Chevrolet Avalanche registered to Heuermann and the probe into his cellphone billing records, he was observed by a surveillance team. 

County Court of Suffolk County State of New York
County Court of Suffolk County State of New York

On Jan. 26, a surveillance team recovered a pizza box he threw into a garbage can on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The box was sent to the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory for analysis where the leftover pizza crust was swabbed. 

In March, the crime lab sent the swab to a forensic lab. A month later, the male hair found on Waterman was sent to the same lab for testing.

On June 12, the lab was able to determined the “mitochondrial DNA profile(s) are the same.”  

Suspect's wife was out of state when 3 Gilgo Beach victims disappeared

Travel and cellphone billing records show that Heuermann’s wife was out of state when three slain Gilgo Beach victims disappeared, prosecutors say in his bail application. 

A bail application filed by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said that Heuermann’s wife was out of the country in Iceland when Melissa Barthelemy vanished in July 2009. 

Then in June 2010, cellphone billing records show she was in Maryland when Megan Waterman vanished. Waterman was last seen June 6, 2010.

Again in late August to early September 2010, she was in New Jersey when Amber Costello disappeared, last seen Sept. 2, 2010.

Suspect’s Chevy Avalanche linked him to slayings

Heuermann’s Chevrolet Avalanche was a key part of what led investigators to hone in on him in connection with the Gilgo Beach murders. 

A witness in the disappearance of 27-year-old Amber Lynn Costello identified “a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche as the vehicle believed to have been driven by her killer,” a bail application filed today in Suffolk County court said.

A renewed joint investigation into the decades-old case “led to the discovery of a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche” registered to Heuermann in March 2022.

Subpoenas and search warrants on Heuermann followed, leading to the discovery of cellphone bill records. The records allegedly corresponded with cell site locations for burner phones used to arrange meetings with three of the Gilgo Beach victims. They were also allegedly linked to taunting calls made to a relative of slain victim Melissa Barthelemy and voicemails to victim Maureen Brainard-Barnes' phone.

Heuermann to be charged with 3 counts of first-degree murder

Heuermann will be charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22; and Amber Costello, 27, according to his bail application.

They are three of the “Gilgo Four,” whose remains were found in December 2010 along Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach, Suffolk County. 

The document said that though Heuermann was not charged with crimes in connection with the disappearance and murder of 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes, the fourth member of the "Gilgo Four," he is the "prime suspect in her death" and the investigation is ongoing.  

The application shares graphic details of the serial murders and alleges the suspect searched for sadistic material online. He also allegedly used fictitious names, and burner email and cellphone accounts. It asks that Heuermann be remanded without bail. 

Cell tower clue led authorities to focus on Long Island

Law enforcement felt strongly that the Gilgo Beach serial killer was from Long Island because of a cell tower ping clue, two senior law enforcement officials briefed on the case said.

The ping came from the Massapequa area from a phone belonging to one of the victims after her death, the sources said.

Officials believed the alleged killer used Melissa Barthelemy’s cellphone to call her teen sister repeatedly soon after Melissa disappeared in 2009.

The alleged killer made explicit sexual comments, claimed to have killed Melissa and related details of her killing that only the murderer would know. Police believed the caller was a white male and the calls came from midtown Manhattan. 

It was previously unreported that the same victim’s cellphone briefly pinged off a tower in the Massapequa area around the same time. It was that potential clue that led officials to believe the suspect could one day be found in that area.  

The suspect’s house is a little more than a 15-mile car ride from Gilgo Beach.

Neighbor says suspect's family members were 'loners'

A next-door neighbor of Heuermann says the suspect's family members "kept to themselves" and were "like loners."

Patrica Maressa, 64, has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years and was stunned by the news that the man who lives next door to her was arrested in connection with the Gilgo Beach murder investigation.

“I can’t believe what’s going on,” she said today. “It’s very sad." She added that she felt bad for both the families of the victims and the family of the suspect.

She said that she had minimal conversation with the neighbors in the now infamous one-story "red house," which stood out from the neighborhood of well-kept white and beige two-story homes. Some people in the area were "creeped out" by the home, she said.

“If they’re outside, we say, ‘Hi, how you doing? That’s about it,” Maressa said.

She said Heuermann lived in the home with his wife, a son and a daughter.

“He’s a tall, big, big guy. Always dressed well,” she said, but noted he wasn't overly friendly.

She said the last time she saw him was about a week ago when he was working in his yard.

“It seems like they were starting to redo the front of the house because they put in a new door and put in new windows," Maressa said.

She noted they live in a quiet area, where "at night, you could hear a pin drop.”

Truck towed from suspect's home

'The day has finally come': N.Y. governor says

“The day has finally come,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said today in response to news that a suspect was arrested in connection with the Gilgo Beach killings.

“Hopefully after further news is unveiled today the answer will be yes, yes, the day has finally come when someone so deprived, depraved of heart, would kill individuals, innocent individuals in the prime of their young lives, is finally brought to justice,” she said at an unrelated news briefing. 

Hochul said she hopes the news will bring justice and “peace to the families.”

The governor also took a moment of silence for the victims in the slayings. 

Neighbor says suspect's family was 'super closed off'

Matthew Waterhouse, 23, grew up a few houses down from the suspect in Massapequa on Long Island and described the family as reserved.

He never interacted with Heuermann or his family members, but noticed Heuermann regularly doing yard work in front of his home.

“I don’t think he was necessarily suspicious,” he said referring to Heuermann.

“They always seemed a bit odd because they never really talked to anyone and their house was way more run down than every other house on the block,” Waterhouse said.

“They were like super closed off,” Waterhouse added. “I don’t think anyone on our block had a relationship with them.”

Billy Baldwin says Gilgo Beach suspect was his high school classmate

Actor Billy Baldwin said he knew the suspect taken into custody in the Gilgo Beach investigation. 

“Woke up this morning to learn that the Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect was my high school classmate Rex Heuermann,” the actor tweeted today. 

The two attended Berner High School in Massapequa, New York, and graduated in the class of 1981, he said.

“Mind-boggling… Massapequa is in shock,” he wrote. 

Lawyer for victims' families feels there is still another suspect

John Ray, an attorney who represents the families of Shannan Gilbert and Jessica Taylor, said he is "delighted" that there has been an arrest in the Gilgo Beach murders. But he added that he feels "very strongly" that Heuermann is not responsible for all 11 murders, including the killings of Gilbert and Taylor.

"It gives us something of a sigh of relief, but it's partial," Ray said in an interview this morning. "There's still much to be done on this."

Ray said he is certain that today's arrest is connected only to the so-called Gilgo Four: victims whose bodies were discovered wrapped in burlap within days of each other in late 2010. Gilbert and Taylor were not among those four, and their families are still holding out hope for another arrest, he said.

"There undoubtedly is" another suspect, Ray said.

Suspect arrested last night, indictment expected today: Officials

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said the Gilgo Beach murders task force “did place on individual under arrest” around 8:30 p.m. yesterday. 

He was taken into custody near 35th and Fifth Avenue in New York City and transported to the Suffolk County Police Department headquarters, Harrison said. The case is now with a grand jury.

“We anticipate an indictment later on this afternoon,” the commissioner said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said that the Gilgo Beach investigation has been going on throughout his tenure in office.

"The focus for me, members of our team, has been on bringing justice for this victims and closure to these families who have suffered. Today’s developments take us a major step forward in doing exactly that," he said.

More details are expected to be shared at a news conference later this afternoon.

Friend of suspect: "I did not see this coming."

Heuermann, who owns a Manhattan architecture firm, was a member of a New York City-based networking group known as The Dream Team. He attended weekly meetings, according to one group member, who asked not to be named, and described Heuermann as friendly, organized and available.

The Dream Team’s website describes it as a referral club, to grow members' businesses. “We don’t let just anyone in our group,” the website says. “You have to have drive, passion, ethics, and above all, you have to be a good person.”

“I knew him as a friend and a colleague,” the fellow member said when reached by phone. “And I am completely surprised.”

Heuermann attended the group’s weekly meeting, and the friend said she spoke to him on Zoom on Tuesday. 

“I did not see this coming,” she said. 

Map: Where eight of the Gilgo Beach murder victims were found 

‘They finally caught him’: Shannan Gilbert's sister says

Sherre Gilbert, the sister of Shannan Gilbert, whose disappearance in May 2010 in Long Island led to the discovery of a spate of human remains, said today she's "relieved" to hear a suspect is in custody.

“I am overwhelmed but relieved that they finally caught him. It’s been a long time coming and I never gave up hope that one day justice would be served," she said in a statement to NBC News.

"The suspect (Rex) deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his life," she continued. "He destroyed many lives so while it won’t bring our loved ones back, it does help that one less monster is off the streets and he can’t ever hurt anyone else!”

Heuermann, 59, has been identified as the suspect, four senior law enforcement officials briefed on the case said.

Shannan Gilbert worked as an escort and had visited a client at his Oak Beach home the day she disappeared, police said.

Her remains were ultimately found in December 2011 in Oak Beach marshland. 

Suspect has a Manhattan architecture firm

Heuermann, identified as the suspect taken into custody in connection with the Gilgo Beach serial killings, is the owner and founder of a Manhattan architecture firm, RH Consultants and Associates, according to the company website and his LinkedIn profile.

RH Consultants & Associates was incorporated in 1994 and has clients including Catholic Charities, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection's sewage treatment and American Airlines, according to the company website.

Suspect identified as 59-year-old Rex Heuermann

The suspect taken into custody this morning in Long Island has been identified as Rex Heuermann, 59, four senior law enforcement officials briefed on the case said.

He was taken into custody in connection with the Gilgo Beach serial killer case, the sources said.

There was a large police presence at his home address in the Massapequa Park area for much of Friday morning.

He's expected in court later today.

Suspect in custody in Gilgo Beach investigations from Massapequa

The suspect in custody in connection with the Gilgo Beach murders is from Massapequa, in Nassau County, Long Island, sources say. 

That’s just west of Suffolk County, where most of the 11 sets of human remains were found. 

The suspect is expected to appear in court in Riverhead later this morning, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. 

DA: 'Significant development' in Gilgo Beach murder investigation

“There has been a significant development in the case" of the Gilgo Beach murder investigation, a spokesperson for the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office said this morning.

The spokesperson declined to comment further until after a court proceeding later this morning.

A news conference is set for 4 p.m. regarding the “significant development” by the district attorney’s office, along with law enforcement, the FBI and the New York State Police.