Billy Baldwin has revealed he has an unlikely connection to suspected Gilgo Beach serial killerRex Heuermann – following the shock arrest of the architect and married father-of-two.
The actor took to Twitter on Friday to announce his shock that his high school classmate had been arrested on suspicion of carrying out up to 11 unsolved murders on Long Island.
“Woke up this morning to learn that the Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect was my high school classmate Rex Heuermann,” he tweeted.
“Berner High School Massapequa, New York Class of 1981 Married, two kids, architect. “Average guy… quiet, family man.” Mind-boggling… Massapequa is in shock. 23andMe strikes again???”
Baldwin – part of the Baldwin family of actors including Alec Baldwin – grew up in the Massapequa suburb of Long Island.
It was there that multiple law enforcement agencies descended late on Thursday and into Friday at Mr Heuermann’s home on First Avenue in Massapequa Park – located just a 20-minute drive from Gilgo Beach.
Neighbours told The Independent that Mr Heuermann, 59, was a quiet family man who lived in the close-knit community with his wife and two children.
One neighbour, who has lived a stone’s throw from the Heuermanns for more than two decades, said that the family is “a very quiet family” who made “no imprint at all” on the neighborhood.
“Basically, we never had any contact with him... living here 22 years and never said two words to him,” the long-time Massapequa Park resident said, adding that “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch” in a “great neighbourhood”.
One woman told News12 that it was “mind-boggling” that the “quiet” 59-year-old could be involved in the horrific case while another said that he was known to do outdoor activities such as woodwork.
Mr Heuermann, 59, was taken into custody outside his Midtown Manhattan office at around 8.30pm on Thursday night in connection with the unsolved murders, sources told News 12 Long Island. Police have not officially announced the suspect’s name.
The architect and married father-of-two works in Manhattan – where some of the Gilgo Beach victims were last seen alive – as the president of architecture firm RH Consultants & Associates.
According to the company website, he founded the company in 1994. It has since worked with the likes of Catholic Charities, NYC-DEP Sewerage Treatment and American Airlines and other major tenants at the JFK International Airport.
A company page called Meet The Team and featuring his photo appeared to be taken down on Friday morning as news of his arrest broke.
In an interview posted on YouTube by Bonjour Realty last year, the father-of-two said that he was “born and raised in Long Island” but had been “working in Manhattan since 1987... [a] very long time”.
It is not clear what led to the sudden breakthrough in the case over a decade after bodies began being dumped along remote beaches.
However it comes just one day after the skeletal remains of a man were found in a wooded area off the Southern State Parkway in Islip, Long Island.
Suffolk County Police would not confirm the arrest on Friday morning or Mr Heuermann’s identity to The Independent, but have announced a press conference for Friday afternoon citing a “significant development” in the high-profile case.
The Gilgo Beach murders have long stumped law enforcement officials in Suffolk County who believed it could be the work of one or more serial killers who targeted sex workers and dumped their bodies along the remote beaches on Ocean Parkway.
The case began in May 2010 when Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker, vanished after leaving a client’s house on foot near Gilgo Beach.
She called 911 for help saying she feared for her life and was never seen alive again.
During a search for Gilbert in dense thicket close to the beach, police discovered the remains of another woman.
Within a matter of days, the remains of three more victims were found close by.
By spring 2011, the remains of a total of 10 victims had been found including eight women, a man, and a toddler.
Gilbert’s body was found in December 2011. Her cause of death is widely contested with authorities long claiming that it is not connected to the serial killer or killers but that she died from accidental drowning as she fled from the client’s home.
However, an independent autopsy commissioned by her family ruled that she died by strangulation and her mother believes she was murdered.
Like Gilbert, most of the victims targeted were sex workers.
Four victims are still yet to be identified more than 10 years on from the discovery of their bodies.
Several theories have been mulled over the years but no one had ever been charged with the killings.
Authorities have previously said they believe that three separate serial killers could be responsible for the slayings over a period of around 20 years.
An attorney representing two of the victim’s families told News 12 on Friday morning that they learned around a week ago that an arrest was imminent.
John Ray, who represents the families of Gilbert and Jessica Taylor, said they “had a very strong, credible tip that they were about to close in on an arrest”.
But, he said that they were not too optimistic – given the case has rumbled on for more than a decade – and had not been told anything official.
“We’re pleased if they actually managed to find somebody that can be tagged for this,” he said.
“We’re pleased that something is finally occurring, because we’ve been frustrated.”
News of the shock arrest comes after Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison vowed to finally close the case and bring the killer or killers to justice when he was appointed to the role in early 2022.
“I want to make a commitment to the residents of Suffolk County as well as the family members,” Mr Harrison, a former NYPD chief said in his first press briefing in his new role at the Long Island beach at the center of the murders in January 2022.
“We will not rest until we bring those accountable to justice.”
He added: “There’s a commitment, a relentless pursuit to identify the individuals and bring them to justice. That’s for the family members to hear, to let them know that we will not rest, and we will make sure we do everything we have to do to hold them accountable.”
The newly-appointed commissioner said that, with “a set of fresh eyes”, he had faith that he could get the cold case “across the finish line”. He launched a dedicated taskforce for the case.
Four months later, police released the 911 call made by Gilbert on the night that she disappeared – something that Ms Gilbert’s family had been calling for for years.
In the call, Gilbert is heard repeatedly telling the 911 operator that “somebody’s after me”.
Later in the call, she is heard arguing with a man – who she refers to as Mike – who appears to be trying to encourage her to get back inot a car.
At one point, Gilbert is heard asking if he is “going to kill” her.
“These people are plotting to kill me,” she tells the dispatcher.
It is not clear if the release of the 911 call after all these years helped lead law enforcement to the suspect.