Rex Heuermann is ‘traumatised’ by Gilgo Beach murders arrest, attorney says

Attorney claims the case against the accused serial killer consists of only ‘circumstantial evidence’

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 19 July 2023 13:55 BST
Moment Gilgo Beach suspect arrested in crowded New York street

Rex Heuermann’s attorney has said that the suspected Gilgo Beach serial killer is “traumatised” by his sudden arrest – as he claims that the 59-year-old married father-of-two has already been “convicted by the media”.

Attorney Michael Brown told ABC News that he met the accused serial killer for the first time on Friday when he was arraigned on charges for murdering three women and dumping their bodies along the shores of Long Island.

He said that Mr Heuermann seemed normal in the meeting but was “traumatised” by the fact he had been taken into custody over the unsolved killings.

“Nothing struck me as unusual about him. He was articulate, he was intelligent, he was soft-spoken,” he said.

Mr Brown dismissed the wealth of evidence against his client, saying that it is only “circumstantial evidence” – with no witnesses to the murders and no confession from the accused killer.

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”.

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.

Authorities search the home of suspect Rex Heuermann on Tuesday
Authorities search the home of suspect Rex Heuermann on Tuesday (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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 hairs were 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 where he ran an architecture business.

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 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.

Mr Brown went on to say that the high-profile nature of the notorious serial killer case would make it difficult for him to have a fair trial.

“When you have a high profile case like this, initially you have to be concerned about getting a jury that hasn’t been biased, that hasn’t convicted him, just based on what they’ve read in the newspapers and what they’ve heard on social media. So that’s going to be a challenge,” he said, adding that he has already “been convicted in the media already and the media public opinion.”

Rex Heuermann in booking photo
Rex Heuermann in booking photo (AP)

The horrific serial killer case has captured the nation’s attention for more than a decade.

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.

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.

While investigations are continuing into the other Gilgo Beach murders, law enforcement agencies are also looking into unsolved murders and missing persons cases all across America.

A Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson told The Independent on Tuesday that they are reviewing unsolved murders and missing persons cases around Sin City after becoming aware that the suspect owns a time share property in the area.

“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,” the department said.

Meanwhile, over in South Carolina, Chester County Sheriff’s Office said that they were looking for evidence to assist New York officials.

“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 owns a property in Chester next to his brother Craig. The pickup at the centre of the murder investigation was seized from his brother’s home this week.

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