Did ‘serial killer’ Rex Heuermann strike beyond Gilgo Beach? Police probe links to unsolved cases across US

Questions are being asked as to whether suspect may have committed more alleged crimes between the discovery of the bodies in 2010 and his arrest 13 years later

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 18 July 2023 20:48 BST
Moment Gilgo Beach suspect arrested in crowded New York street

Investigators are exploring the possibility that suspected Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex Heuermann could be responsible for other murders all across America, following his sudden arrest last week.

Former NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday that the 59-year-old suspect is now 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.

“I made some phone calls yesterday to see what they were doing. They’re looking at all missing persons who have never been found and see if they can put those together,” he said.

“Not just in Suffolk, but throughout the tri-state area to see what they can put together. There’s also the FBI looking at national issues as well.”

Mr Boyce pointed out that Mr Heuermann had been “free” for many years – as the accused killer continued his daily life for 13 years after the bodies were first discovered in 2010.

“So we’ll keep going in that respect becasue he was free for many years,” he said.

“He lived that Manhattan to Massapequa – that was his whole life right there – but it doesn’t mean he didn’t step out of it. So we have to look all the way around.”

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.

So far, Mr Heuermann is charged with the murders of three women who vanished between 2007 and 2010, before their bodies were found dumped along Gilgo Beach.

He is also the prime suspect in the murder of a fourth woman.

The bodies were all discovered in December 2010, along with another seven bodies who are yet to be tied to the accused killer.

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.

Yet, Mr Heuermann also has ties to both South Carolina and Las Vegas, owning properties in both locations.

Families of victims leave court after Rex Heuermann’s initial court appearance (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Chester County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina revealed that it had helped New York officials gather evidence in its case against Mr Heuermann.

“The Chester County Sheriff’s Office was requested by the Gilgo Beach Task Force to assist in gathering evidence in Chester County relevant to their investigation,” the department tweeted.

Mr Heuermann’s brother Craig Heuermann lives in Chester in rural South Carolina and the suspected killer also owned a plot there.

One neighbour told Fox News Digital that Craig had told them his brother was planning to retire on the secluded property.

“[Craig Heuermann] keeps saying his brother is going into retirement,” they said.

“He told me when I first moved down here that his brother owns that lot across the road, and that his brother’s going to retire down here, and when he does, everybody’s leaving.”

Meanwhile, Mr Heuermann and his wife also bought a time share for a condo in Las Vegas in 2005 – not long before the murders.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told The Independent on Tuesday: “We are aware of Rex Heuermann’s connection to Las Vegas. We are currently reviewing our unsolved cases to see if he has any involvement.”

Now, questions are being asked as to whether the suspect may have committed any more alleged murders besides the killings of the “Gilgo Beach Four”.

It is also unclear whether he may have killed in the period between the discovery of the bodies in 2010 and his arrest 13 years later.

Rex Heuermann booking photo (AP)

Court records show that Mr Heuermann was linked to the killings through a pimp’s 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 in surveillance footage grabs in court documents (via REUTERS)

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 was found on three of the four women he is connected to.

He was arrested on the night of 13 July when a team of officers swooped as he left his office in Midtown Manhattan.

He was charged with three counts of murder in the first degree and three in the second degree over the deaths of Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Costello.

He is also the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes – who together with the three is known as the “Gilgo Beach Four” and was last seen alive in early June 2007 in New York City.

The four women were found within one-quarter mile of each other, bound by belts or tape and some wrapped in burlap.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges as he appeared in court on 14 July and was ordered to be held without bond.

In a statement on Thursday, Mr Heuermann’s attorney insisting his client is innocent and that officials have ignored “more significant and stronger leads” in the serial killer case.

A crime laboratory officer moves a cat scratching post as law enforcement searches the home of Rex Heuermann (AP)

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.

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.

This booking image provided by Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office shows Rex Heuermann

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.

Investigations are continuing into the other murders.

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