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Police Expand Probe Into Alleged Gilgo Beach Killer Rex Heuermann, Eyeing Potential Link to Two Other Victims
“This is not going to be solved overnight,” said Tricia Hazen, the half-sister of Valerie Mack, whose remains were found on Long Island in 2011 and 2000.
The Suffolk County Police Department has assigned two new investigators to the Gilgo Beach task force in an effort to solve the cold case murders of Karen Vergata and Valerie Mack, according to Newsday.
“I thought it was a good idea to grab some people from the outside to take a look at other things that maybe, potentially attach themselves to Rex Heuermann,” Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison told the Long Island newspaper.
Law enforcement is examining “numerous” tips, Newsday reports. They also hope to identify the remains of three other bodies found near Gilgo Beach.
“This is something I need — a dedicated team of investigators to prioritize, to come to work — not going to do anything, but looking to see if you can attach them to where they came from,” Harrison said. “Once we get that, then maybe we go forward with either [the bodies] being something that Rex Heuermann might have been involved in or identify another subject who might have been involved.”
Investigators are now investigating the backgrounds of Vergata and Mack, as well as their movements in the days leading up to their deaths.
Who is Karen Vergata?
In 1996, Vergata’s partial remains were found on Fire Island, where passersby found her legs wrapped in plastic. For years, Vergata was known as Fire Island Jane Doe. In 2011, her skull was found along Ocean Parkway. Her remains were later linked together that year, and then later tied to a name through genetic genealogy, Suffolk County Police announced in August. She was identified as the fifth Gilgo Beach victim. Vergata, who police believe had been living and working as an escort in Manhattan, was 34 years old at the time of her disappearance. Vergata vanished in 1996 but was never reported missing.
“We have to look at what happened on Fire Island and take a look at that investigation and how it went from Fire Island over to Ocean Parkway,” Harrison told Newsday. “We will continue to work hard to see if we can attach these other unidentified bodies that were discovered on Ocean Parkway, so it is a work in progress.”
Who is Valerie Mack?
Mack vanished in 2000 while living in Philadelphia. Her mutilated remains were found strewn across Long Island, including along Ocean Parkway, in 2011 and 2000.
Mack’s half-sister Tricia Hazen confirmed to Newsday that detectives had recently questioned her about her half-sibling’s family history and also took letters Mack had sent to various relatives. Mack was adopted, according to the newspaper.
“This is not going to be solved overnight,” Hazen told Newsday. “I am grateful for the deep dive into Valerie and the other women killed.”
The Long Island architect was arrested by police near his office in midtown Manhattan in July. DNA found on a discarded pizza crust ultimately tied Heuermann to the series of murders via matching hair samples found with his alleged victims’ remains. He’s pleaded not guilty.
Heuermann is also the primary suspect in the murder of 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
In total, authorities have recovered the remains of 11 victims from along the South Shore beaches of Long Island, who are believed to have been murdered between 1996 and 2011. The majority of the victims were active sex workers.
He’s scheduled to be back in court on November 15, the New York Post reported.