Long Island police expected to identify another Gilgo Beach murders victim as they announce ‘update’ in case

A senior law enforcement source said investigators have been able to identity another Jane Doe

Rachel Sharp
Friday 04 August 2023 13:46 BST
Moment Gilgo Beach suspect arrested in crowded New York street

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Louise Thomas

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Long Island police are believed to have identified another victim in the Gilgo Beach murders case in a major breakthrough that they are expected to announce later today.

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney and other New York officials have scheduled a press conference for 10.30am ET on Friday to announce what they described as an “update in the ongoing investigation by the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation Task Force”.

A senior law enforcement source told NBC New York that investigators have been able to identify another victim – previously referred to as the seventh Jane Doe.

In total, the remains of 11 victims were found dumped along the shores of Gilgo Beach back in 2010 and 2011 but, more than a decade later, some are yet to be identified.

This major development comes as prosecutors are seeking to obtain a swab of DNA from Rex Heuermann, the man arrested and charged with the murders of three of the victims and suspected of a fourth killing.

In a court filing this week, prosecutors said that the DNA sample would “provide further relevant evidence of the defendant’s identity as the perpetrator of the crime”.

Prosecutors have so far obtained hundreds of hours of footage from the suspect’s home in Massapequa Park and his office in Midtown Manhattan, 2,500 pages of documents, crime scene photographs and autopsy reports in the high-profile case.

The trove of evidence was turned over to Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Timothy Mazzei and Mr Heuermann’s attorney Michael Brown on Tuesday as the accused killer appeared in court for a brief preliminary hearing.

Suffolk County DA Tierney said last week that a “massive amount of evidence” had been recovered from the home which Mr Heuermann grew up in as a child – and which he went on to share with his family up until his sudden arrest.

No human remains were discovered, but a trove of around 270 guns were seized from the home.

The DA previously revealed that they believe at least some of the murders may have taken place inside the home.

Mr Heuermann’s wife and two adult children were out of town at the time of each of the three murders he is charged with, according to court records.

The 59-year-old architect was taken into custody on 13 July, almost 13 years after the bodies of at least 11 victims were discovered along the shores of Gilgo Beach on Long Island.

He was 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 – who was last seen alive in early June 2007 in New York City and who, with the three other women, is known as the “Gilgo Four”.

Rex Heuermann appeared in court on Tuesday
Rex Heuermann appeared in court on Tuesday (jtc)

All four women worked as sex workers and disappeared after going to meet a client. They were all found in December 2010 within one-quarter mile of each other, bound by belts or tape and some wrapped in burlap – their bodies dumped along Gilgo Beach.

They are among 11 victims whose remains were found along the shores of Long Island in 2010 and 2011, sparking fears of one or more serial killers.

As well as looking into his connection to the murder of Brainard-Barnes and the other Gilgo Beach victims, law enforcement agencies are now also looking into unsolved murders and missing persons cases all across the country.

Police in Las Vegas and South Carolina – where Mr Heuermann owns properties – and Atlantic City – where several sex workers have been found murdered – have confirmed they are eyeing the suspect in cold cases.

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

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

Costello, who worked as a sex worker, 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”.

Rex Heuermann’s home being searched by investigators
Rex Heuermann’s home being searched by investigators (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 found on one of the victims, while his wife’s hair was found on three of the four women he is connected to.

Following his arrest, his wife Asa Ellerup filed for divorce. She has since told The New York Post that she has been left filled with “anxiety” and their two children “cry themselves to sleep” over the horror.

“I woke up in the middle of the night, shivering... anxiety,” she said.

“My children cry themselves to sleep. I mean, they’re not children. They’re grown adults but they’re my children, and my son has developmental disabilities and he cried himself to sleep.”

Mr Heuermann’s sudden arrest comes after the horrific serial killer case has captured the nation’s attention for more than a decade.

The Gilgo Beach murders had 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 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.

Crime scene investigators use metal detectors to search a marsh for the remains of Shannan Gilbert in December 2011
Crime scene investigators use metal detectors to search a marsh for the remains of Shannan Gilbert in December 2011

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. Police have long thought that it could be the work of one or more serial killers.

Gilbert’s body was then 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, while some are yet to be identified.

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