The unsolved murders of 11 people – most of whom were young female sex workers – have gripped the US for more than a decade and were even the subject of the 2020 Netflix film ‘Lost Girls’.
It was the frantic search for 23-year-old escort Shanan Gilbert, who disappeared in 2010 in the coastal community of Oak Beach, New York, that led officers to the remains of a different woman.
But that terrifying discovery was just the beginning. Within days, three more young women were found, all within a short distance of each other, sparking fears that a serial killer was lurking.
Now, 13 years after human remains were dumped on Gilgo Beach, US detectives believe they have finally caught the man behind a gruesome murder.
On Thursday night, investigators swooped in to make a dramatic arrest of Rex Heuerman, 59, in midtown Manhattan outside his architectural office on Fifth Avenue.
The wealthy architect – accused of killing three women and linked to a fourth – is believed to be the prime suspect in the historic Gilgo Beach murders.
Manhattan architect Rex Heuerman (pictured), 59, is charged with three murders for the Gilgo Beach serial killer, and is the prime suspect in the murder of a fourth victim.
The mystery began with the search for 23-year-old Shanan Gilbert, a New Jersey escort who went missing after calling 911 in May 2010.
The first victim, Melissa Barthelemy (left), 24, was discovered by Suffolk County police on Dec. 11, 2010. The body of Megan Waterman (right), 22, was found two days later.
Heuerman is charged with the murder of Amber Costello (right) and Maureen Brainard-Barnes (left).
Heuerman, who for decades lived across the bay from where the remains were found, is charged with killing Melissa Barthelemy, 24, Megan Waterman, 22, and Amber Costello, 27. All three were found off the coast of Long Island during the search. Mrs. Gilbert.
After being under surveillance since last year, US police changed plans to build another case against Heuermann who they feared might have fled the country. ‘He is a demon who walked among us,’ said the police.
Heuerman, who has pleaded not guilty to all three charges, is also the prime suspect in the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes – who was found with Ms Barthelemy, Ms Waterman and Ms Costello.
The women, all of whom were sex workers, have been called the Gilgo Beach Four.
Ms. Barthelemy, an escort, disappeared on July 12, 2009 and was found on December 11, 2010. The night she disappeared, she told a friend she was going to see a man and would return in the morning.
Shortly after she disappeared, Ms. Barthelemy’s then 16-year-old sister began receiving calls from her phone. On the other end of the line was the voice of a man who told him that his older sister had died and threatened the teenager.
Ms. Brainard-Barnes, a sex worker, was last seen in 2007 after taking an Amtrak train from New London, Connecticut, to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. She was reported missing on July 14 and her body was found on December 13, 2010.
Ms Costello, a sex worker as well as a heroin addict, was last seen leaving her home on September 2, 2010 – months before her body was found.
The partial skeletal remains of Valerie Mack (left) were found in a wooded area in Manorville in September 2000. The partial skeletal remains of Jessica Taylor (right), a New York City escort, was found July 26 in a wooded area in Manorville. , 2003
On April 4, 2011, the remains of an ‘Asian man’ were discovered. They are believed to have been dead for five or six years.
Heuerman appears in a still image from surveillance video at a cellphone store in the New York City borough of Manhattan, U.S., on May 19, 2023.
Ms. Waterman, an escort and mother of one, was last seen riding the New York-bound Concorde Trailway on June 6, 2010. He was found on the same day, December 13 of that year.
All were sex workers who advertised their services on Craigslist, leading police to believe that the killer approached them first.
After finding the Gilgo Beach Four, police discovered four additional sets of human remains on April 4, 2011. They are Jessica Taylor, Valerie Mack, 24, a female child and an identified Asian male.
Seven days later, two remains were found near Ocean Parkway, about seven miles from Gilgo Beach. One is believed to be the mother of the child and the other is known as ‘Jane Doe 7’.
Ms Gilbert’s body was finally found in December 2011, three miles east of where the other remains were discovered.
She disappeared in 2010 after making a frantic call to the police. A distraught Miss Gilbert was heard claiming someone was trying to kill her before she disappeared on May 1.
‘Something’s going to happen to me,’ she said on the call.
Crime scene investigators recovered evidence from the Massapequa Park home of Rex Heuerman, who was arrested as a suspect in the Gilgo Beach serial killings.
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said Heuerman had been under surveillance since last year and U.S. police had moved to arrest him for fear he would strike again.
A map showing the remains of the eight victims on a barren stretch of Ocean Beach Parkway in Gilgo Beach, on the south coast of Long Island.
The Netflix film Lost Girls was based on the Gilgo Beach killer. It was released in 2020
‘There is someone after me, I don’t know where I am. I am inside a room. I don’t know where I am. Can you find out where I am?’ At one point a man can be heard laughing and saying ‘shut up’.
Neighbors in the area later said they saw him knocking on several doors before he disappeared.
A total of 11 human remains were found on the same stretch of Gilgo Beach between 2010 and 2011.
Detectives declined to say whether Heuerman was suspected in other murders, saying their task force was focused on four victims involving the architect, adding that the four cases had distinct ‘commonalities’.
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney told reporters that Heuerman was arrested in the interest of ‘public safety’ and cited several red flags, including that he ‘continued to patronize sex workers’, was using fake IDs and burner phones and had a permit. . For an amazing 92 firearms.
Long Island architect Rex Heuerman (pictured), 59, arrested in major police breakthrough for Gilgo Beach serial killings
The suspect’s home sits directly north of Gilgo Beach across South Oyster Bay
Flanked by family members of the victims as he addressed reporters, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said: ‘Rex Heuerman is a monster that roams among us, a predator that destroys families.’
Prosecutors said a body of evidence linked Heuerman to the murders, including DNA recovered from a pizza crust he threw away that matched genetic material found in the women’s remains.
Chilling parallels can be drawn between Heuerman, a married father of two, and the unknown suspect described in a 2011 FBI profile of the Gilgo Beach killer.
That profile described a ‘sad but charming average Joe’, who could blend into the environment unnoticed.
Rosemary Kafka, 56, a former neighbor who lived with the Heuermann family, told NBC that if he is convicted, ‘he’s living a double life’.
He added: ‘You know, the regular guy who goes to work, has kids at the local school and a good neighborhood, but he’s killing the people next door.’
During an initial court appearance, Heuerman appeared haggard — puffing his cheeks and shaking his head as some of the charges were read. He wore khaki pants and a gray collared shirt and did not speak in court.
He pleaded not guilty to six charges—three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder.
After the hearing, his attorney Michael Brown said his client yelled at him, ‘I didn’t do it.’
Prosecutors alleged that other evidence linking Heuerman to the murders included:
His wife’s DNA was found on the bodies of three of the victims. A hair of his own was found on the body of one of the victims. After his death, his Tinder profile with photos of him in his office was linked to Berner’s phone number. His personal phones were always pinged in the same area as the suspect. Physical description of ‘ogre’ seen by witness as seen with a man Heuerman conducted a graphic search for child pornography and sexual abuse. He also searched Google for updates on the case, investigating ‘why law enforcement was trying to trace the calls made by the Long Island serial killer. can’t’
His name first came to light in March 2022 when he was identified as the owner of an identical truck seen by witnesses when a victim disappeared in 2010.
The Chevrolet Avalanche truck he owned when the women were killed in 2009 and 2010 was seen at the home of at least one the day before the disappearance.
In March, detectives recovered his DNA from Heuerman’s pizza crust on a box that he threw in a Manhattan trash can and matched it to a hair found with a restraint used in the killing, authorities said.
DNA from a crust was 99.6 percent similar to his DNA found under a man’s hair in a burlap sack one victim found.
Prosecutors also found hair from three unidentified women among the victims.
Heuerman grew up in Massapequa Park, attended high school with Billy Baldwin, and began working in Manhattan in 1987.
Heuermann was married once in 1990 and a few years later to his current wife Asa Ellarup, who is of Icelandic descent.
He and Asha have an adult daughter, Victoria, who works with Heuerman in his architectural firm, and a stepson, Asa, from a previous marriage.
Part of his job was negotiating between the New York City Building Department and private architects.
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