MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. — Investigators made a major break in the Gilgo Beach murder case by looking into the past and revisiting an old clue.
The suspect charged in the deaths of three women is 59-year-old Rex Heuermann. He is an architect and married father of two who lives in Massapequa Park.
Heuermann was tied to the murders in part through DNA extracted from a discarded pizza crust he ate and a male hair found on a victim, as well as his activity on a series of burner phones used to arrange meetings with the slain women.
Heuermann is currently behind bars, charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello, according to an indictment unsealed in Suffolk County Criminal Court.
He is also considered the prime suspect in the death of another woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
The victims in the case – there are 11 in total, including a man and a toddler – were mostly young women who were sex workers. Authorities have said that more than one person may have been responsible for the murders.
“We’re going to continue to work, investigate, and try to get a small measure of closure for all the victims’ families,” Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said.
Heuermann was first eyed in the cases in March 2022. At the time, he was connected to a Chevy pickup truck a witness had seen where a victim disappeared in 2010.
“They never stopped working and will continue to work tirelessly until we bring justice to all the families involved,” Suffolk County police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said.
Heuermann was arrested around 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Midtown, Manhattan, outside the office building where he works as an architect. Exclusive video obtained by Eyewitness News shows authorities surrounding Heuermann to take him into custody.
He was arraigned Friday afternoon in Suffolk County. He pleaded not guilty.
Tierney, personally appearing before the judge, called Heuermann an “ongoing danger.”
He implored the judge not to allow bail as Heuermann owns houses in South Carolina and Las Vegas and is a flight risk.
He said Heuermann used seven burner phones to make more than 200 searches about the Gilgo Beach investigation and family members of the victims.
Allie Pertel, the sister of one of the victims, Megan Waterman, spoke out after the arrest of Heuermann.
“I was honestly very shocked because he doesn’t look like the monster that he is,” Pertel said. “But hearing details from the day, I guess he really was a monster.”
Defense attorney Michael J. Brown called the case against Heuermann “extremely circumstantial in nature.”
Heuermann was ordered held on no bail pending a bail application based on what the judge called the “extreme depravity of the allegations.”
The four women Heuermann is linked to were all found covered in burlap along a half-mile stretch of Ocean Parkway on Long Island’s South Shore in late 2010.
The group has been referred to as the “Gilgo Four” after investigators determined their killings were connected.
Early Friday morning, crime laboratory officers were seen entering his home in Massapequa Park as a large police presence, led by Suffolk County Police, NY State Police, and other law enforcement partners kept a perimeter.
The home belonged to a family that had long kept to themselves, neighbors said, noting that the dilapidated property seemed out of place among rows of single-family homes and well-kept lawns in the small community.
“You never saw anybody coming in or out of that house,” said Richard Harmon, a neighbor. “You would say, ‘Who lives there?’ You never see anybody.”
As for the victims, their murders, along with the deaths of seven other people, have long gone unsolved.
Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance in 2010 triggered the hunt that exposed the larger mystery. A 24-year-old sex worker, she vanished after leaving a client’s house on foot in the seafront community of Oak Beach, disappearing into the marsh.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks among us – a predator that ruined families,” Harrison said on Friday. “If not for the members of this task force, he would still be out on the streets today.”
This story includes information from the Associated Press.