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Crime News Serial Killers

Suspect in Infamous Gilgo Beach Murders Arrested

Rex Heuermann, a 59-year-old architect, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello.

By Daniel Carty

A suspect has been taken into custody in connection to three of the 11 deaths in New York's Long Island known collectively as the Gilgo Beach murders, a case that has frustrated authorities for more than a decade.

Rex Heuermann, a 59-year-old architect who owned his own practice in Manhattan and lived for decades not far from where multiple victims were found along a beach highway, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. Authorities described his as a "prime suspect" in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, reports the New York Post.

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Heuermann was taken into custody late Thursday and appeared in court Friday afternoon, where he entered pleas of not guilty to the charges against him. His lawyer, Michael Brown, told reporters that Heuermann denied involvement in the murders.

"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."

According to a bail application obtained by the NY Post, Heuermann was linked to one of the victims through DNA obtained from a discarded pizza crust.

Authorities were seen searching at his Massapequa home Friday morning and towed a pickup truck from the residence.

“This is a day that is a long time in coming, and hopefully a day that will bring peace to this community and to the families — peace that has been long overdue,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said during an unrelated appearance on Long Island, according to the Associated Press.

The killings, known as the Gilgo Beach murders or the Long Island serial killings, have generated headlines since 2010, when a number of human remains were found along a beach highway in Long Island’s Suffolk County. 

What are the Gilgo Beach Murders?

The discovery of the string of killings known as the Gilgo Beach murders came in 2010, with the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker who vanished after leaving a client’s home in Oak Beach in the early morning hours of May 1, 2010. Before disappearing, Gilbert placed a lengthy call to 911, telling dispatchers that “somebody’s after me.”

In the course of investigating Gilbert’s disappearance, authorities searching along Gilgo Beach stumbled on the remains of 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy on Dec. 11, 2010. Just two days later, authorities found the remains of three more victims – Megan Waterman, 22; Amber Lynn Costello, 27; and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, according to NBC News.

For months, authorities kept finding more remains, eventually bringing the total up to 11. Most of the victims were female sex workers, according to the AP, though the remains of a toddler child and a man were also located in the same area.

Gilgo Beach Map 2

Gilbert’s body was eventually found in December 2011. Authorities haven’t officially listed her as a Gilgo Beach murder victim, stating in 2022 that her death was “most likely an accident.”

Why has the Gilgo Beach murder investigation taken so long?

The probe into the Long Island murders has been beset by allegations of corruption over the years, according to previous Oxygen.com reporting. Former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, who led the initial investigation and would later serve prison time for beating up a handcuffed suspect in a separate case, cut ties with FBI investigators, hampering efforts to find a suspect, State Sen. Phil Boyle told Oxygen.com last year.

However, current Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison announced the creation of a joint task force in February 2022, comprising of local Suffolk County authorities, New York State Police and the FBI in an effort to jumpstart the investigation again.

“I believe this case is solvable and identifying the person or people responsible for these murders is a top priority,” local station WABC-NY reported at the time.

Relatives of Shannan Gilbert and Jessica Taylor, one of the women whose remains were found, issued a statement to NBC News through attorney John Ray, sharing that they're "delighted" in the developments but they "strongly" believe there is more than one killer responsible for the string of murders.

"It gives us something of a sigh of relief, but it's partial," Ray said. "There's still much to be done on this."

Ray said that he believes Gilbert and Taylor's deaths may not be linked to that of the so-called Gilgo Four, a group of four victims whose remains were found wrapped in burlap and buried further away from Gilbert and Taylor. 

Heuermann, a married father of two, kept to himself, neighbors told the AP. His family's home appeared dilapidated and and out of place in typically well manicured neighborhood.

“This house sticks out like a sore thumb. There were overgrown shrubs, there was always wood in front of the house,” Gabriella Libardi, a 24-year-old teacher, told the AP. “It was very creepy. I wouldn’t send my child there.”