Gilgo Beach murder suspect may have had female accomplice, attorney for victim families says

‘We have a number of reasons to think a woman may have been involved,’ attorney John Ray tells The Independent

Andrea Blanco
Tuesday 18 July 2023 23:48 BST
Gilgo Beach suspect Rex Heuermann ‘a demon that walks amongst us’, police say

An attorney representing the families of two women whose bodies were found in Gilgo Beach more than a decade ago has shared his suspicions that newly-arrested suspect Rex Heuermann may have had a female accomplice.

A string of murders stumped police in the gated Long Island community of Gilgo Beach for more than a decade. It began in 2010 when 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert vanished after leaving a client’s house and an investigation into her disappearance led authorities to a trail of young women’s remains.

Ten bodies, also including an Asian male and a 10-month-old baby, were recovered along a stretch of a remote highway, prompting fears of a serial killer.

The case went cold until last year, when Suffolk County police reopened a probe into the grim murders. Last week, an interagency task force arrested 59-year-old Manhattan architect Mr Heuermann, reigniting hopes that the victims’ families might finally be able to obtain justice.

Mr Heuermann is only facing charges for the murders of three of the Gilgo Beach murder victims — Amber Costello, Megan Waterman and Melissa Barthelemy. But authorities have revealed they’re confident further charges over the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes will stick and haven’t ruled out the possibility that the disgraced architect could become the prime suspect in the other slayings.

Attorney John Ray represents the families of Gilbert and Jessica Taylor, whose remains were among those found during the 2010 probe. Mr Ray told The Independent on Tuesday that he has long suspected that a woman may have helped the killer lure the victims.

“We have a number of reasons to think a woman may have been involved. Nothing is certain here, [I want] to emphasise that, but there was some evidence that a woman was involved,” Mr Ray said.

The attorney said that some of the evidence that could suggest a woman was involved in the killings is the way a “baby Doe’s” body was found.

The child’s mother, dubbed “Peaches” for a tattoo on her torso, was found in Nassau County in 1997. Additional remains and those of her child were found years later, and the murders have been linked to the Gilgo Beach case.

“The baby was wrapped in a blanket of some kind. And that’s something, you know, if you’re a depraved murderer, as a man ... Would you take the time to do that?” Mr Ray said. “But a mother might do that. That’s just one I use that as one of several reasons why we think that, but we don’t have any dispositive evidence that it was so.”

More than 11 bodies are linked to the Gilgo Beach murders investigation. Mr Heuermann was arrested last week and charged with three of the slayings (AP)

Gilbert’s body was found in December 2011. Suffolk County authorities have previously said that they don’t believe Gilbert was a victim of the Gilgo Beach serial killer, or even that she was a victim of homicide.

However, an independent autopsy commissioned by her family ruled that she died by strangulation.

“We’ve insisted that she was murdered. We have overwhelming evidence that that is true,” Mr Ray said. “The police had taken bizarre position that she died of natural causes.”

He added: “We’re hoping now with the new task force with these great guys and new brains and excellent work of the District Attorney and the new Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison.

“We’re hoping that they’re going to give it a look, a new look at the evidence with Shannan and investigate it as a murder.”

Rex Heuermann, 59, was arrested last week in connection with the brutal murders of Melissa Barthelemy (upper left), Amber Costello (upper rigth), Megan Waterman (bottom left). He is also the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes (bottom right) (AP)

Mr Ray said his clients have welcomed news of the arrest and now hope their loved ones’ killer or killers will also face the criminal system.

“Both families are very happy that this man was caught and they’re happy for the other family members of the other victims,” Mr Ray said. “But the murderer of their loved ones has not been found. And even if it turns out to be this Tyrannosaurus Rex monster, there’s no solace in the end. Justice is an idea, but it’s not a feeling in a sense, and their feelings and their senses are still hurt and this resurrected those feelings. So it’s a bittersweet condition.”

Mr Ray said that his law firm is joining efforts with the Suffolk County Police Department’s investigating team. Commissioner Harris has said in the aftermath that they’re probing any links Mr Heuermann may have with the Gilgo Beach bodies.

On Tuesday, Former NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told ABC’s Good Morning America that Mr Heuermann is being looked at in connection to missing persons cases and murders far beyond the shores of Long Island – across the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and even nationwide.

Mr Ray also told The Independent that although he had a tip that a breakthrough development would be announced in the case, he was not familiar with Mr Heuermann.

“His whole background and purpose and so forth, his lifestyle were all quite surprising,” Mr Ray said. “Much more needs to be known about that now, because here’s a fella who purports to be a successful architect. I doubt very much that he was.”

A crime laboratory officer moves a cat scratching post as law enforcement searches the home of Rex Heuermann, Saturday, July 15, 2023, in Massapequa Park, N.Y. (AP)
Oficiales de policía del estado de Nueva York llevan a cabo un objeto grande mientras la policía registra la casa de Rex Heuermann, el sábado 15 de julio de 2023, en Massapequa Park, N.Y. (AP)

Mr Heuermann is the president of the architecture firm RH Consultants & Associates. On his company website, he boasted about working with the likes of Catholic Charities, NYC-DEP Sewerage Treatment and American Airlines and other major tenants at the JFK International Airport.

However, court records obtained by CNN show that Mr Heuermann, who lives in the same modest home where he was brought up in Massapequa Park, has a history of filing personal injury lawsuits claiming to have been hit by vehicles. He also reportedly owes more than $200,000 in taxes to the IRS.

“He maintained some kind of an office in Manhattan, you know, dipping in Manhattan doesn’t make you rich,” Mr Ray added. “But here he is an architect and yet his house is filthy and broken down and held up by two-by-fours on the front porch. It’s a striking contrast between, you know, the guy in the suit and tie you see in the picture and his circumstances.”

An NYPD official told ABC News that the married father-of-two’s DNA has been entered into a statewide database and that his alleged MO is being compared to other cases across New York state – including those during the period he was allegedly active in Gilgo Beach.

Mr Heuermann lived close to Gilgo Beach in Massapequa Park, Long Island, but worked in the heart of Midtown Manhattan where he runs an architecture firm. Some of the victims were last seen alive in the city.

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