How pizza crust helped link Rex Heuermann to the Gilgo Beach murders

DNA results came back on 12 June with a 99.96 per cent degree of accuracy

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Saturday 15 July 2023 17:22 BST
Gilgo Beach: Police remove evidence from home of Long Island serial killer suspect
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The Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect was linked to the crime scene with the help of a discarded pizza box that was thrown into a Manhattan trash can.

Investigators running surveillance on Rex Heuermann at the Manhattan office where he worked as an architect watched him throw the pizza box away, according to court documents.

The team grabbed a leftover pizza crust and had it swabbed and analysed by a forensics lab. Prosecutors say that the tested sample matched a mitochondrial DNA profile from a male hair collected off burlap recovered from the body of Megan Waterman.

The DNA results came back on 12 June with a 99.96 per cent degree of accuracy, state court papers, with investigators stating that it “is significant that Defendant Heuermann cannot be excluded from the male hair recovered near the ‘bottom of the burlap’ utilized to restrain and transport Megan Waterman’s naked and deceased body.”

Investigators refocussed on the Long Island serial killings last year and officials said on Friday that Mr Heuermann quickly became the focus of the investigation.

“On March 14, 2022, the name Rex was first mentioned. A New York state investigator was able to identify him in a database and from that point on we used the power of the grand jury, over 300 subpoenas and search warrants, looking into this individual’s background to bring us to this day,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney.

Eventually, DNA evidence and cell phone data would be used to charge Mr Heuermann with the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello.

This booking image provided by Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, shows Rex Heuermann, a Long Island architect who was charged Friday, July 14, 2023, with murder in the deaths of three of the 11 victims in a long-unsolved string of killings known as the Gilgo Beach murders.
This booking image provided by Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, shows Rex Heuermann, a Long Island architect who was charged Friday, July 14, 2023, with murder in the deaths of three of the 11 victims in a long-unsolved string of killings known as the Gilgo Beach murders. (AP)

The 59-year-old pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in the first degree and three in the second degree.

Prosecutors say that he also remains the prime suspect in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, a 25-year-old Connecticut woman who went missing in July 2007. Her body was found near Gilgo Beach in December 2010 during the search for Shannan Gilbert.

This combination of undated image provided by the Suffolk County Police Department, shows Melissa Barthelemy, top left, Amber Costello, top right, Megan Waterman, bottom left, and Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
This combination of undated image provided by the Suffolk County Police Department, shows Melissa Barthelemy, top left, Amber Costello, top right, Megan Waterman, bottom left, and Maureen Brainard-Barnes. (AP)

No charges have been brought in her case but officials say that the investigation “is continuing and is expected to be resolved soon.”

Investigators also looked into Mr Heuermann’s Internet search history and say that he repeatedly searched for child sex abuse images, sadistic content, and images and information about his alleged victims.

Prosecutors say that between March 2022 and June 2023, his email account was connected to more than 200 searches about his alleged victims, articles written on the investigation into their murders, as well as known and active serial killers.

The searches included, “Why could law enforcement not trace the calls made by long island serial killer”, “Why hasn’t the long island serial killer been caught”, and “FBI active serial killers.”

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