Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect had stash of over 40 illegal guns

Rex Heuermann is fighting to have his guns returned to his family following his arrest in the infamous Long Island serial killer case

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 05 October 2023 16:19 BST
Moment Gilgo Beach suspect arrested in crowded New York street

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Louise Thomas

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Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuermann was harbouring a stash of over 40 illegal firearms and 10 high-capacity magazines prior to his arrest in the decade-long cold case, according to authorities.

In a new court filing on Tuesday, Suffolk County prosecutors said that they seized a staggering 280 guns during a raid of his family home in Massapequa Park, Long Island.

Among the trove of assault rifles, handguns and antique weapons, the search uncovered at least 26 unregistered handguns, 15 unregistered assault weapons and 10 high-capacity magazines which were allegedly illegally possessed by the suspect.

The damning allegation came as Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Opisso’s office and Mr Heuermann’s attorneys continue to come to blows over his collection of firearms.

The 59-year-old architect and married father-of-two is arguing that his guns should be returned to his family so that they can be sold to “provide a temporary but urgently needed respite from the financial hardships afflicting the Heuermann family” in the aftermath of his arrest.

Meanwhile, prosecutors argue they should remain in the custody of Nassau County officials because they suggest a crime was committed – and because Mr Heuermann also lost his firearms licence when he was hit with murder charges.

Mr Heuermann was arrested on 13 July and charged with the murders of Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Costello. He is also the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

All four women – known as the “Gilgo Four” – worked as sex workers and disappeared after going to meet a client.

They were all found in December 2010 along Gilgo Beach, their bodies bound by belts or tape and some wrapped in burlap.

The discovery came during the search for Shannan Gilbert – who vanished in the area one night in May 2010 after leaving a client’s house on foot near Gilgo Beach, making a final chilling 911 call saying she feared for her life.

During a search for Gilbert in dense thicket close to the beach, police discovered the remains of the Gilgo Four.

Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect in court in September
Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect in court in September (AP)

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 then found in December 2011.

The discovery of the remains of multiple victims fuelled fears of one or more serial killer preying on women and dumping their bodies along the remote shores.

But the case went cold for more than a decade – before Mr Heuermann’s bombshell arrest this year.

Court records show that Mr Heuermann was linked to the “Gilgo Four” murders through DNA evidence on some of the victims, a tip about his pickup truck, a stash of burner phones, “sadistic” online searches, phone calls taunting victims’ families and also his wife’s hair found on the victims’ bodies.

The first piece of the puzzle came when a witness in the Costello case revealed details about a vehicle that a client was driving when she was last seen alive.

Costello was seen alive on the evening of 2 September 2010 when she left her home in West Babylon. A witness said she had gone to meet a client who was driving a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche.

Last year, a registration search showed that local man Mr Heuermann owned a first-generation model of the truck at the time of Costello’s disappearance. He also matched the witness’ description of the man believed to be the killer: a large, white “ogre”-like male in his mid-40s, around 6’4’ to 6’6” tall, with “dark bushy hair,” and “big oval style 1970’s type eyeglasses”.

Search of Rex Heuermann’s home
Search of Rex Heuermann’s home (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The discovery of the car led investigators to hone in on Mr Heuermann including executing 300 subpoenas, search warrants and other legal processes to obtain evidence to determine his potential involvement in the killings.

Among this was Mr Heuermann’s alleged use of burner phones, with prosecutors saying that he used burner phones to contact the three women and arrange to meet them at the time when they went missing.

He also allegedly took two of the victims’ cellphones – and used one to make taunting phone calls to one of their families where he boasted about her murder, court documents state.

Mr Heuermann’s DNA was also found on one of the victims, while his wife’s hair was found on three of the four women he is connected to, according to prosecutors.

In court last month, prosecutors revealed that new DNA evidence had more definitively tied him to the one of the murders.

Mr Heuermann has not been charged in the killings of seven other victims found along the shores – some of whom have not yet been identified.

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