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Woman Killer Arrested in Connection with Gilgo Beach Murders

Woman Killer Arrested in Connection with Gilgo Beach Murders

Architect Rex Heuermann, 59, of Nassau County, New York, is the “prime suspect” in the deaths of four women and has been charged with their murders.

Here 23-year-old Sixto Gomez-Zurito was discovered wounded by gunfire. The bodies were discovered more than a decade ago at secluded Gilgo Beach on Long Island’s South Shore, scaring locals and leaving victims’ families heartbroken. Nine women, one guy, and one toddler were found dead in total.

Since then, police have looked into the possibility that numerous assailants were responsible for the murders, rather than just one. However, the cases remained unsolved for over a decade. The architect Rex Heuermann, who spent most of his life in Nassau County but worked in Manhattan, was arrested on Thursday, charged with the murders of three women and suspected in the killing of a fourth.

His arrest came after detectives pored over evidence ranging from a monogrammed belt worn by one of the victims to the intricate electronic signals of disposable mobile phones.

Amber Lynn Costello, Megan Waterman, and Melissa Barthelemy’s bodies were found within a quarter mile of each other on a stretch of beach, and Mr. Heuermann was charged with their murders on three counts of first degree murder and three counts of second degree murder.

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Their bodies were wrapped in hunting camouflage burlap. All of the escorts were young women in their twenties. They vanished sometime in 2009 or 2010. Also buried similarly were the bones of a fourth lady, 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes, who had gone missing in July 2007.

Mr. Heuermann was not charged with the murder of Ms. Brainard-Barnes, but he “is the prime suspect in her death,” as stated in the bail application submitted by Allen Bode, the top assistant district attorney in Suffolk County. Their evidence “fits the modus operandi of the defendant.”

The prosecution requested that Mr. Heuermann be held without bail in court documents, citing factors such as “the serious, heinous nature of these serial murders,” the planning that went into them, the suspect’s history of firearm possession, and “his recent searches for sadistic materials, child pornography, images of the victims and their relatives.”

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Mr. Heuermann, who was arrested late Thursday in Midtown Manhattan, made a brief court appearance in Suffolk County on Friday afternoon, during which he spoke quietly and merely to confirm his identity. As District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney detailed the DNA evidence linking him to the crime that had been collected from pizza crust, bottles, and human hairs, the man in handcuffs sighed and frowned.

Mr. Tierney stated that Mr. Heuermann possessed “irresistible” motivation to run and permits for 92 firearms. Richard Ambro, the judge, said he was ordering his detention “because of the extreme depravity of the allegations.” Mr. Heuermann’s attorney, Michael Brown, cried to him outside the courthouse, saying his client had told him through sobs, “I didn’t do this.”

“We’re looking forward to fighting this case in a court of law, not the court of public opinion,” he said. Police say they have evidence connecting Mr. Heuermann to the murders, including DNA and the tracking of disposable cell phones they suspect the killer used to communicate with his victims in the hours before they vanished.

Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks among us, a predator that ruins families,” stated Suffolk County Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison. He claimed that investigators were never deterred by the criticism they received for the investigation’s length. On December 11, 2010, a police officer was out on a training exercise with his K-9 companion when he came upon Ms. Barthelemy’s body.

The bodies of the remaining three ladies were discovered by authorities two days later. Twenty years after she disappeared, the remains of 24-year-old mother and escort from southern New Jersey, Valerie Mack, were discovered later that year.

In the following months, the remains of four additional women, one additional man, and the 2-year-old daughter of one of the women were discovered. Six of the deaths have never been explained. “The work is not done, but this is a major, major step forward,” said Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone.

The arrest of Mr. Heuermann has given hope to the families of some victims that their loved ones’ crimes will also be solved. “I’m grateful for the hard work that has been done,” Jasmine Robinson, a cousin of Jessica Taylor, a 20-year-old woman who had worked as an escort in New York, said.

Soon after she disappeared in 2003, authorities located some of her remains. In the beginning of 2011, more were discovered along Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach. The day has finally arrived, and for that, Ms. Robinson expressed her gratitude. “And I have faith in the years to come.”

Prosecutors detailed an extensive investigation that yielded a breakthrough in March 2022 when it was learned that Mr. Heuermann had owned a Chevrolet Avalanche truck at the time of the murders. Mr. Bode, the prosecutor, stated in his filing that a witness had seen an Avalanche parked in the driveway of one of the deceased women just before her disappearance.

Prior to discovering the truck, investigators had focused their investigation on a limited area of Massapequa Park where they believed the killer to be based on cell-site data, as reported by an informed source. Burner phones were used by the killer to make contact with victims in the hours before they vanished, according to the investigation.

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Using geolocation services, they determined that Mr. Heuermann’s residence on First Avenue in Massapequa Park and his place of business at Fifth Avenue and 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan were the two primary origins of the calls to the victims.

According to the court document, Ms. Barthelemy’s family received a series of “taunting” calls on her phone when she was in the area of that office. Amanda, Ms. Barthelemy’s sister, received one in July of 2009. Asking if “do you think you’ll ever speak to her again?” a person familiar with the call said that a calm, unremarkable voice said to her.

She expressed her desire to reconnect with her sister and he told her that he had recently murdered her after engaging in s*xual activity with her. After waiting a few seconds, the caller ended the call.

According to the investigation, Mr. Heuermann used burner phones to make contact with prostitutes or massage parlors and created an email account under a fictitious name to conduct a search for “s*x workers, sadistic, torture-related p*rnography” and images and videos depicting s*xual assaults on women and children.

The account was reportedly used to send selfies “to solicit and arrange for s*xual activity” and to look for podcasts and films associated with the inquiry. Mr. Bode stated that the accused “repeatedly” viewed “hundreds of images depicting the murdered victims and members of their immediate families.”

Mr. Heuermann looked for news accounts about a task team established in 2022 to probe the murders. While he was researching the task team, it was conducting its own investigation into him. A detective emptied Mr. Heuermann’s garbage can in July 2022 and removed 11 bottles. DNA from the bottles was compared to DNA taken from hairs on the bodies.

Mrs. Heuermann, who was out of the nation or out of state when all three women vanished, seemed to be a match. The investigation team determined that Mr. Heuermann had transplanted his wife’s hair to the victims. Regular surveillance of Mr. Heuermann began in January 2023, when it was observed that he had thrown a pizza box into a trash can outside his workplace.

Using a sample, the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory was able to match a hair from Ms. Waterman’s corpse to the discarded crusts in June. According to Mr. Tierney, the task force had a grand jury issue over three hundred subpoenas and search warrants. Mr. Tierney stated at a press conference that the grand jury assisted detectives in covertly pursuing Mr. Heuermann.

We knew this one person would be watching,” he explained. Mr. Heuermann spent the majority, if not all, of his life in a neat working-class suburb located about an hour away from Midtown Manhattan via train or car. According to his neighbors, he went to Alfred G. Berner High School and maintained a long-standing family house with a rooftop garden supported in part by bare wood.

The little house stood out from the other well-kept properties on the block due to its faded and damaged roofs and unruly yard. On Halloween, some neighbors reportedly stayed away from it. Mr. Heuermann was characterized by locals as a “average” man who regularly rode the train from Massapequa Park while carrying a briefcase.

Neighbor Barry Auslander remarked, “You’d never think he was anything but a businessman.” Mr. Heuermann, in an interview conducted in February 2022, said he was an architect and consultant who kept a “extensive library of obsolete books.”

At Mr. Heuermann’s office, he spoke with Antoine Amira, a real estate agent and host of a show on YouTube called Bonjour Realty, for 18 minutes. “I’m a troubleshooter, born and raised on Long Island, been working in Manhattan since 1987 — very long time,” he said.

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On Friday, the white and beige brick building where Mr. Heuermann worked was crowded by police and reporters. At about 3:15 p.m., as interested onlookers watched, law enforcement personnel departed carrying boxes, a mallet, and other hefty instruments.

Mr. Heuermann revealed that his father was a rocket scientist and furniture maker in an interview with Mr. Amira. Mr. Heuermann claimed that he had a workshop in his home and that he had constructed furniture there.

Mr. Heuermann, sitting at a desk in a light blue button-down shirt, spoke of the “patience” and “tolerance” required when dealing with architects from out of town who are daunted by New York’s complex set of building codes. He credited his employment with helping him learn “how to understand people.”

Mr. Amira requested a selfie with Mr. Heuermann at the conclusion of the session. Black sunglasses were placed on the face of Mr. Heuermann, a 6-foot-4, heavyset guy who towered over Mr. Amira. When asked, “Can you smile?” Inquired Mr. Amira. Mr. Heuermann said he was grinning in response.

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