Gilgo Beach murder suspect arrested and in custody

A suspect has been arrested in connection with three of the 10 victims linked to the Gilgo Beach, New York, murders, authorities said.

New York City architect Rex Heuermann is charged with the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello, whose bodies were found covered in burlap along Ocean Parkway on Long Island’s South Shore in December 2010, according to court records unsealed Friday in Suffolk County Criminal Court.

Barthelemy disappeared in July 2009, Waterman disappeared in June 2010 and Costello was last seen in September 2010. The three women were between 22 and 27 years old and all worked as sex workers, court records said.

“Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks among us,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said Friday. “A predator that ruined families.”

Rex Heuermann is shown in this booking photo released by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department

Shortly before each woman vanished, she had contact with a person using a “burner” cellphone without a verified identity, according to court records. The cellphones of two victims were used by the killer after their deaths, according to records.

On five occasions in the summer of 2009, someone in midtown Manhattan — which is where Heuermann’s office is located — used Barthelemy’s phone to make “taunting phone calls to Ms. Barthelemy’s family members,” court documents said. Some of the calls “resulted in a conversation between the caller, who was a male, and a relative of Melissa Barthelemy, in which the male caller admitted killing and sexually assaulting Ms. Barthelemy,” documents said.

According to court documents, records established that Heuermann’s wife was out of town when Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello disappeared.

A fourth victim, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, who vanished in July 2007, was also tied to the three women. While Heuermann is not charged in the death of Brainard-Barnes, the court document said he is the “prime suspect in her death.” The investigation into Brainard-Barnes’ death is ongoing, officials said Friday.

Pictures of women, whose bodies were identified among 10 bodies found near Gilgo Beach since December 2010, are seen in this Suffolk County Police handout image released to Reuters on September 20, 2011.

Handout ./Courtesy of Suffolk County Police via Reuters, FILE

“Each of the four victims were found similarly positioned, bound in a similar fashion by either belts or tape,” court documents said.

Male hair was recovered from the burlap used to wrap Waterman’s body, and that DNA was found to be a match to leftover pizza crust Heuermann threw into a Manhattan garbage can in January 2023, according to court documents.

Heuermann, 59, a married father of two, used one of his burner phones “to conduct thousands of searches related to sex workers, sadistic, torture-related pornography and child pornography,” court records said.

Other searches were “related to active and known serial killers,” and the disappearances of the Gilgo Beach victims. One search, according to court records, was, “Why hasn’t the Long Island serial killer been caught.”

Rex Heuermann is shown in an undated file photo from his firm’s website.

RH Consultants & Associates, Inc.

He also allegedly searched for photos of the Gilgo Beach victims and their relatives, Tierney said.

Heuermann also searched for and viewed articles about the authorities investigating him, according to documents.

The suspect was arrested in Manhattan Thursday night, authorities said, and law enforcement was seen outside his home in Massapequa Park on Long Island Friday morning.

Crime laboratory officers arrive to the house where a suspect has been taken into custody on New York’s Long Island in connection with a long-unsolved string of killings, July 14, 2023, in Massapequa, New York.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

Heuermann first came up as a suspect in the investigation in March 2022, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said Friday.

Heuermann was tracked through his car, a Chevrolet Avalanche, which was discovered in 2022. A witness to Costello’s disappearance reported seeing a Chevrolet Avalanche, court records said.

Detectives also tracked Heuermann through cellphone records, according to court records. Tierney said cellphone mapping led investigators to zero in on areas in Massapequa Park and midtown Manhattan.

Police officers stand guard near the house where a suspect has been taken into custody on New York’s Long Island in connection with a long-unsolved string of killings, July 14, 2023, in Massapequa, New York.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

Fears of a serial killer on the South Shore of Long Island began in 2010 with the discovery of a woman’s body along Ocean Parkway.

Over the next year, the bodies of seven more women, a man and a toddler were discovered in the same general area.

The locations where eight of 10 bodies were found near Gilgo Beach since December 2010 are seen in this Suffolk County Police handout image released to Reuters, Sept. 20, 2011.

Courtesy of Suffolk County Police via Reuters, FILE

Investigators have long believed it was possible there was more than one killer because of the different conditions of the victims. Additionally, the wooded stretches along Ocean Parkway were long known as dumping grounds for bodies.

Jasmine Robinson, a cousin of victim Jessica Taylor, told reporters she was “shell shocked” by the arrest.

Taylor disappeared in 2003 at the age of 20. Partial remains were found in 2003 and additional remains were discovered in 2011 along Ocean Parkway.

“I hope that she’s remembered as a beautiful young woman” and not as a sex worker, Robinson said Friday.

Neighbors gather outside the Gilgo Beach suspect’s home in Massapequa Park on Long Island, July 14, 2023.

Victor Ordonez/ABC News

Heuermann is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder.

Defense attorney Michael Brown entered a not guilty plea on Heuermann’s behalf at his arraignment on Friday. Heuermann only spoke his name in court. He was ordered held on no bail.

Following the appearance, his lawyer told reporters that, through tears, Heuermann told him, “I didn’t do this.”

“Today is a good day,” Harrison said at a news conference Friday, before hugging family members of the victims.

“There’s more work to do in this investigation regarding the other victims of the Gilgo Beach bodies,” he added, encouraging anyone with information to come forward. 

ABC News’ Mark Crudele contributed to this report.

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