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Crime News

Ex-Police Chief Who Oversaw Gilgo Beach Killings Investigation Arrested for Allegedly Soliciting Prostitution

James Burke, who served as Suffolk County police chief from 2012 to 2015, was once the lead investigator on the infamous Gilgo Beach murders case, which he’d been accused of mishandling prior to his resignation.

By Dorian Geiger
The Long Island Serial Killer Case, Explained

A disgraced former Suffolk County police chief, who once led the investigation into the Gilgo Beach serial killings, was arrested for allegedly exposing himself and soliciting prostitution in a Long Island park. 

James Burke, 58, was arrested on Tuesday morning for allegedly attempting to engage in sex acts with an undercover ranger at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Farmingville, according to an arrest report obtained by the Associated Press

RELATED: Rex Heuermann's Estranged Wife Has Cancer as Gilgo Beach Murder Suspect Awaits Trial

He was charged with offering a sex act, public lewdness, indecent exposure and criminal solicitation, according to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison.

Burke served as Suffolk County’s highest ranking uniformed officer from from 2012 to 2015. He later resigned amid a federal probe accusing him of assaulting a prisoner and orchestrating a conspiracy to obstruct the subsequent investigation into the incident. The former police chief ultimately was sentenced to nearly four years in prison.

ormer Suffolk County police chief James Burke is escorted to a vehicle by FBI personnel

Authorities allege Burke approached the undercover ranger at around 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday and requested oral sex before exposing himself. 

Burke allegedly later unsuccessfully tried to invoke his former status as a police official to get out of the situation. He also asked rangers if they knew who he was, adding his arrest would be a “public humiliation for him,” Sgt. Brian Quattrini said at a news briefing on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The arresting ranger wasn’t aware who Burke was, officials said. Burke’s arrest was part of a targeted effort to crack down on prostitution in the park following a slough of community complaints. 

RELATED: Gilgo Beach Murder Suspect Rex Heuermann's Actions Were "Disturbing" Before Arrest, Police Say

In 2016, Burke was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to assaulting a handcuffed suspect who had stolen a gym bag from his police SUV, which contained pornography, sex toys and other items. Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota, as well as the county’s top corruption prosecutor, Christopher McPartland, were also forced out of office as a result of the public scandal.

It’s also not the first time Burke has been accused of soliciting paid sex acts. A sex worker once accused the Long Island man of soliciting sex from her at an Oak Beach party in 2011. In 1995, a Suffolk County probe found that the former police chief had a relationship with a sex worker who sold drugs, according to the AP. The probe also determined that Burke committed sex acts in squad cars while in uniform and on duty.

A mugshot of Rex Heuermann

Burke, who served as lead investigator of the Gilgo Beach murders while he was chief, was accused of botching that investigation, as well. He notoriously cut ties with federal investigators amidst the lengthy probe prior to his controversial departure. 

RELATED: Police Identify Jane Doe Found Near Gilgo Four as 34-Year-Old Sex Worker

Rex Heuermann, a 59-year-old architect living on Long Island, was arrested in July for three of the 11 deaths collectively referred to as the Gilgo Beach murders. He was charged with first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello, and is considered the main suspect in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

It’s unclear if Burke had retained legal representation to comment on his behalf. Court information wasn’t immediately available for him either.