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Hairs Found on Gilgo Beach Murder Victims Led to Arrest of Rex Heuermann, Prosecutors Say
Prosecutors shared new insights into how they zeroed in on the man they believe is responsible for at least three murders attributed to the Long Island Serial Killer.
Prosecutors continue to reveal new information about their investigation into the alleged Long Island Serial Killer, Rex Heuermann.
Heuermann, a 59-year-old father of two, was arrested outside his Manhattan office on Thursday, July 13 and charged in connection to the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. He's also being considered as the main suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, according to authorities, though he hasn't been charged. The victims' remains were found along a stretch of highway off Gilgo Beach in 2010.
After being arraigned in court on Friday, Heuermann's attorney, Michael Brown, told reporters outside the courthouse that his client denies any involvement in the crimes.
"The only thing he did say, as he was in tears, was 'I didn’t do this,'" Brown said, according to NBC News. "He's distraught. He's clearly distraught about the charges here."
Heuermann remains in police custody and is expected to appear in court in early August.
How was Heuermann linked to the Gilgo Beach murders?
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney has revealed that investigators first zeroed in on Heuermann in March 2022, when a task force found that he owned a Chevrolet Avalanche. An eyewitness to Costello's disappearance stated that they saw the same model the night she went missing.
From there, the investigators obtained Heuermann's cell tower data for his personal cell phone, as well as a burner phone, which they say confirms he was in the same vicinity of the women on the nights they disappeared. "Investigators could find no instance where Heuermann was in a separate location from these other cellphones when such a communication event occurred," prosecutors alleged in the court documents, according to ABC News.
Tierney has additionally alleged that Heuermann was linked to the murders through hairs found on the burlap in which the Gilgo Four were wrapped and buried in on the South Shore of Long Island. Two hairs were found on Brainard-Barnes, while one hair each was found on Waterman and Costello when the bodies were uncovered in 2010. The hairs "were not suitable" for DNA testing at the time, Tierney told People but were stored in evidence until technological advancements allowed for the creation of a mitochondrial profile.
In the meantime, investigators tailed Heuermann and his wife, later obtaining a DNA profile from a pizza crust found in a box that he discarded in Manhattan. Additionally, the investigators also used DNA taken off of bottles that the Heuermann's left out for trash collection, according to NBC News.
"Now, we go back and we perform that analysis. Two out of the three hairs on Megan Waterman. One, the mitochondrial DNA profile obtained from that hair matches the defendant. One other DNA profile on that hair matches his wife, such that over 99 percent of the rest of the population can be excluded,” Tierney claimed.
The hair on Costello "matched the wife," Tierney added.
He continued, "We know that hair – his hair and his wife's hair – were found on the girl... So that could mean one of two things. There's transfer, meaning if I come in contact with my wife in the morning and one of her hairs gets on my clothes and then I come in contact with someone else, that hair could fall on them. That's called transfer. Or if someone comes to my house or comes into my car that I share with my wife and they sit down and it goes directly onto them.”
However, prosecutors have determined that Heuermann's wife, as well as their two children, were out of the state on vacation at the time the murders took place.
Rodney Harrison, Suffolk County Police Commissioner, separately said that there was hair found on Brainard-Barnes that is still undergoing testing.
"So it's going to take a little time, I'm not sure exactly what the timeframe is. But because the hair follicle was somewhat damaged, and trying to match the DNA connected to the hair, it may take longer than we anticipate. But, if it does come back as a match, then we'll definitely charge him with the murder to Mrs. Barnes," Harrison said, according to ABC 7 News.
What about the other Gilgo victims?
Eleven sets of remains were found buried along the South Shore, including those of Shannan Gilbert, Jessica Taylor, Valerie Mack, an Asian male, a Jane Doe known as "Peaches," and a toddler. At this time, their deaths have not been linked to the murders of the so-called Gilgo Four.
But police have stated that could change as they continue to search Heuermann's home, as well as a storage unit located in Amityville.
Suffolk County Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Carter told CNN, “As we continue to gather evidence, anything is possible."