Rex Heuermann investigated for two other Gilgo Beach murders

It took years for the remains of Karen Vergata and Valerie Mack to be identified and – as of yet – Rex Heuermann has not been charged with their murders

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 17 October 2023 10:47 EDT
Gilgo Beach murders victim Jane Doe 7 identified as Karen Vergata

Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuermann is now being investigated in connection to the murders of at least two other victims whose remains were dumped along the shores of Long Island.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison told local outlet Newsday that two additional investigators had joined the Gilgo Beach task force with the focus of honing in on the killings of Karen Vergata and Valerie Mack.

These investigators are vetting tips and exploring the backgrounds of the two women who vanished while both working as sex workers.

It took years for the remains of Vergata and Mack to be identified and – as of yet – Mr Heuermann has not been charged with their murders and has not officially been named a suspect.

Mr Harrison said that other members of the task force are also working to identify three other victims whose remains were found along Gilgo Beach.

“I thought it was a good idea to grab some people from the outside to take a look at other things that maybe, potentially attach themselves to Rex Heuermann,” the police commissioner said.

“This is something I need – a dedicated team of investigators to prioritize, to come to work – not going to do anything, but looking to see if you can attach them to where they came from.”

He added: “Once we get that, then maybe we go forward with either being something that Rex Heuermann might have been involved in or identify another subject who might have been involved.”

Mack was last seen alive in New Jersey in 2000 while working as a sex worker.

Her remains were found on two separate occasions in Manorville in 2000 and in Oak Beach in 2011, when law enforcement uncovered the remains of 11 victims in the Gilgo Beach area.

For almost a decade, her identity remained a mystery until she was finally identified in 2020 through the use of genetic genealogy.

Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuermann in court

Her half-sister Tricia Hazen told Newsday that investigators had spoken to her about Mack’s family history and said that they were trying to piece together a timeline for her movements prior to her death.

“This is not going to be solved overnight,” Ms Hazen said.

“I am grateful for the deep dive into Valerie and the other women killed.”

The police commissioner said that investigators are also piecing together Vergata’s movements – and also how her remains ended up both on Fire Island and Ocean Parkway.

“We have to look at what happened on Fire Island and take a look at that investigation and how it went from Fire Island over to Ocean Parkway,” he said.

Vergata, a 34-year-old woman also working as an escort, was last seen alive in Manhattan in 1996.

Her legs were first found wrapped in plastic at Davis Park on Fire Island’s Blue Point Beach in 1996.

Almost exactly 15 years later in April 2011, her skull was found off Ocean Parkway close to some of the other Gilgo Beach victims.

This August – one month after Mr Heuermann was arrested for the murders of three victims – Long Island officials announced that she had been identified.

Karen Vergata was identified in August

At a press conference revealing Vergata’s identity, officials refused to confirm whether or not they believed her murder may be linked to the 59-year-old architect.

Mr Heuermann, a married father-of-two, is currently charged with the murders of Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Costello.

He has also been named the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes – who was last seen alive in early June 2007 in New York City.

The four women, together known as the “Gilgo Four”, all 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.

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

The case began in May 2010 when Shannan Gilbert, a young woman working as a 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.

Valerie Mack was last seen alive in New Jersey

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

Within days, four victims had been found.

By spring 2011, the number of victims rose to 10.

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 family continue to believe she was murdered.

No charges have also been brought in connection to the other four victims including Jessica Taylor who was 20 when she vanished in 2003. Her remains were first found in a wooded area in Manorville one week later before a second set of remains was found in March 2011 along Ocean Parkway.

Meanwhile, three victims – an unidentified Asian man aged between 17 and 23 years old, a woman nicknamed “Peaches” over a distinctive tattoo and the woman’s two-year-old child – are yet to be identified.

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 and phone calls taunting victims’ families.

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.

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