Massapequa Park Resident Arrested In Gilgo Beach Murders

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Suffolk County DA releases evidence that led to arrest

By Jennifer Corr, Amanda Olsen and Janet Burns 

At a press conference, Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney, Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison gave details of the investigation that led to defendant Rex Heuermann’s arrest. (Photo by Jennifer Corr)

On July 14, reporters and camera operators packed the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office in Yaphank amid a press conference that would discuss the details of an investigation by the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation Task Force that led to the July 13 arrest of Massapequa Park resident Rex Heuermann, 59.
He is charged in the first degree and second degree for the 2009 murder of 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy, the 2010 murder of 22-year-old Megan Waterman and the 2009 murder of 27-year-old Amber Lynn Costello. While the defendant is not yet charged with any crimes related to the 2007 disappearance and murder of 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes, he is the prime suspect in her death and the investigation, which is continuing and is expected to be resolved soon.
Present at the press conference was Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney, Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr., as well as representatives from the New York State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder was also present, as well as members of the victim’s families.
“I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family members of Amber Costello, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman,” Harrison said. “I could only imagine what you had to endure over the last decade regarding knowing that your killer was still loose. God bless you.”
He then hugged each of the family members present.
Tierney explained that when he took office in January of 2022, he sought to make the Gilgo investigation his priority, and he met with the victim’s families, some of whom were at the press conference. The Gilgo Beach Homicide Task Force of investigators, analysts, prosecutors and law enforcement were formed, utilizing the Grand Jury for its power and reach in obtaining documents, interviewing witnesses and keeping secrecy.
“We knew that when we were investigating this case and when we were dealing with the media… we were playing before a party of one,” Tierney said. “We knew that the person responsible for these murders would be looking at us. We were very careful how we handled the investigation.”

Gilgo Beach Becomes a Crime Scene
On Dec. 11, 2010, according to a Bail Application Form provided by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Suffolk County Police Officer John Malia was conducting a training exercise with his K9 partner along Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach when the K9 located a set of human remains that were identified to be those of Barthelemy’s.
On Dec. 13, 2010, the Suffolk County Police Department continued to search in the proximity, and found three additional sets of human remains, identified to be those of Waterman’s, Costello’s and Brainard-Barnes’ within one quarter mile of the first discovery. They each appeared to have been placed in close proximity of each other, 22 to 33 feet off the parkway.
According to the Suffolk County Police Department’s website about the case, the initial search took place eight months after the search began for 23-year-old Shannan Gilbert, who was last seen running through the community of Oak Beach after leaving a client’s house. She had made a haunting call to a 911 dispatcher which is now available to the public, stating “somebody’s after me,” asking the dispatcher to trace where she was and speaking in a frightful tone to her driver and client. Two residents also called the police after she knocked on their door.
Gilbert’s remains were found on Dec. 13, 2011 in a marshland near Oak Beach. The Suffolk County Police Department currently believes her death is an unfortunate accident, but is still evaluating any information the public may have.
Additional remains of victims found along Ocean Parkway were Jessica Taylor (partial remains were also discovered in a wooded area of Manorville in 2003), Valerie Mack (partial remains were also discovered in a wooded area of Manorville in 2000), an unidentified person and an unidentified toddler which DNA analysis confirmed to be the child of an unidentified woman whose remains were found in Nassau County.
“And then there was nothing, absolutely nothing,” Tierney said. “For the next 13 years, their cases went unsolved until today.”
Currently, the focus of the investigation is on the “Gilgo Four,” Barthelemy, Waterman, Costello and Brainard-Barnes. All of the women had advertised as escorts in the New York City area on Craigslist and other websites.

The Victims
An obituary for Waterman, born in Portland, Cumberland County, Maine, described her as a loving and devoted mother, daughter, granddaughter and sister.
“She loved music, dancing, beaches and spending time with the love of her life, her daughter Lily with whom she spent time doing things with such as reading stories together, watching movies, playing games and just snuggling,” the obituary read. “Megan put family first and all else next.”
Melissa Barthelemy, as described in a Newsday article covering her memorial service in West Seneca, was remembered as a smiling young woman whose life came to an incomprehensible end. More than 200 friends and family had gathered to pay their respects. She really cared about people, one family member had said.
Costello’s sister told Newsday in 2011 that she was born in Charlotte and raised in Wilmington, N.C., Costello was twice married and divorced, battled drug addiction and found faith later in life. She had four nieces she doted on, and Christmas was her favorite time because she enjoyed giving presents. Rev. Wayne Griffiths, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Babylon, said she had understanding and empathy, and used those characteristics to help people.
Brainard-Barnes, of Connecticut, was described as a wonderful mother, a beautiful daughter and a caring sister.
A friend of Brainard-Barnes told The Bulletin, a newspaper that covers Eastern Connecticut, that she “had a lot of energy” and “thought everyone was her friend.”

News Coverage and Delays in the Investigation
At the time of the victim’s disappearance, headlines like “Cops say four Craiglist hookers killed by same psycho” (from the Daily News) appeared on newsstands.
Over a decade later, language around sex workers has improved.
“I have seen improvements, but just because there’s improvements doesn’t mean it’s time to ‘rest on our laurels’ kind of thing,” said Phoenix Calida, the Co-Executive Director of Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA. “There’s still a lot of stigma, still a lot of dehumanization. I’ve seen that some outlets who are covering this are still using the term ‘prostitute,’ instead of the preferred term, ‘sex worker’ … also victim-blaming. So yes, there’s been some progress, but not nearly enough, and not nearly enough in general to make sex workers feel safe in society.”
And while the narrative around sex work is improving, it’s still far too late.
“If sex workers were able to talk about this more publicly years ago [without fear of criminalization], maybe some of it could have been averted,” Calida said. “There’s just something really heartbreaking about that, because it’s unnecessary damage, collateral damage.”
Along with society’s view of sex workers, the investigation was also hindered by a scandal that hit the Suffolk County Police Department that led to the jailing of the former chief of the Suffolk County Police Department James Burke, who was caught brutalizing a suspect in custody who stole private items from Burke in late 2012 and pressuring detectives to cover it up. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota and Christopher McPartland, the former Chief of Investigations and Chief of the Government Corruption Bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, were also jailed for covering up Burke’s crimes.

The Evidence
Approximately two months into the renewed joint investigation, according to the Bail Application Form, a comprehensive review of evidence led to the discovery of a Chevrolet Avalanche registered to Heuermann. A witness to the disappearance of Costello had identified the vehicle, as well as a description of a man that matches Heuermann’s features.
(The FBI has seized that vehicle from South Carolina, and it’s been returned to Suffolk County.)
This discovery led to a comprehensive investigation of Heuermann which consisted of over 300 subpoenas, search warrants and other legal processes to obtain evidence.
Among the evidence that was found were cellphone billing records corresponding to cell site locations for the burner cellphones used to arrange meetings with three of the four victims, calls checking Brainard-Barnes’ voicemail after her disappearance, a call made by a detective to Barthelemy’s cellphone after her disappearance and taunting calls to a relative of Barthelemy. Additionally, Heuermann lived in Massapequa Park where the victims were believed to have disappeared from, and he worked in Midtown Manhattan, as an architect, in the vicinity where the taunting calls were made.

In May 2023, Defendant Heuermann was observed by law enforcement via video and field surveillance, at a cellphone store in Midtown Manhattan, and purchased additional minutes which were added to this burner cellphone.
(Photo courtesy the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office)

Investigators have located a number of online accounts and burner cellphones linked to Heuermann, but were held by him in fictitious names and used for illicit activities, including contacting sex workers and massage parlors and conducting thousands of searches related to sex workers, sadistic, torture-related pornography and child pornography.
“I’ve seen reports that police actually knew he was seeing sex workers while he was under investigation, and just sort of let that happen, which seems incredibly harmful and somewhat disrespectful to the sex work community,” Calida said. “Who would have been there to protect sex workers had he chosen to make them his next set of victims?”
He also used a burner email account to conduct over 200 searches between March 2022 and June 2023 related to active and known serial killers, the disappearances and murders of Brainard-Barnes, Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello and the investigation into their murders.
Investigators believe, using modern day DNA analysis, that hairs that were found on Brainard-Barnes, Waterman and Costello belong to Heuermann and his wife. Travel records confirm she was out of state during three of the murders (cellular billing records and travel/financial records of his wife from 2007 could not be obtained because they were no longer available due to retention policies. Therefore it is undetermined if his wife was out-of-state during Brainard-Barnes’ disappearance and murder.) It is likely that the burlap, tape, vehicles and other instrumentalities utilized in the murders came from Heuermann’s residences, where his wife resides, or was transferred from his clothing. The DNA was obtained by an undercover Suffolk County Police Officer taking bottles left out for collection at the Heuermanns’ residence and a surveillance team taking a pizza box that contained leftover pizza crust thrown out by Heuermann into a garbage can in Manhattan.

This pizza box was sent to the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory for analysis, where a swab was taken from the leftover pizza crust.
(Photo courtesy the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office)

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Tierney said. “I know we have more to accomplish. But I’m also thankful for the partnership of the task force. Because certainly, without the participation of the task force, I know we wouldn’t be standing here.”
At the time of Heuermann’s arrest, he had the burner cellphone that was linked to the email used to conduct the online searches. Searches of his residence and other locations are currently ongoing.
Based on the serious and heinous nature of the offense, the strength of the case, the life sentence Heuermann faces, the measures he took to avoid apprehension, his recent online searches and his history of possessing firearms, the Bail Application Form requested that he be held without bail.
“While we did our part in this investigation, we continue because we have to house this individual,” Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. said at the press conference. “We have already designated, or talked about, certain locations where we will house him, and in addition, the security measures we will implement in our facility to make sure this individual is brought to justice the way he should be.”
If convicted of the current charges, Heuermann faces multiple sentences of life without parole.
Heuermann pleaded not guilty to all the charges. “We just got appointed on this case. There’s not much I can tell you folks at this point in time,” his attorney, Michael Brown, told NBC. “I will say to you folks that it’s extremely circumstantial in nature. In terms of speaking to my client, the only thing I can tell you that he did say, as he was in tears, was ‘I didn’t do this.’”
Heuermann’s wife has reportedly filed for divorce.

Massapequa Park, The Center of a National News Story
Massapequa Park has approximately 7000 residents with about 6000 homes in the village. It’s a typical small town, with numerous parks and a quaint downtown. Mayor Daniel Pearl has been living in the Massapequas his whole life, moving to the village of Massapequa Park 22 years ago when he got married. He has been serving in the village government for nearly half that time.
“It’s a quiet place. All the neighbors know each other,” he said.
Pearl remembered the unease that surrounded the start of the case in 2010, since the bodies were discovered nearby. The news that Heuermann was the main suspect in these murders was certainly a shock to him and his constituents. “The way this whole thing started breaking out 10 plus years ago, over a decade ago, it was unbelievable to hear and everybody was scared. You know, serial killer and all that. Then to get up Friday morning (July 14) and find out that we have a possible serial killer living in the heart of the village. It was a total shock, not just to me, but to the majority of the community, especially the folks that live on that street.”
Practical matters are also a concern, but Pearl wanted residents to know that municipal services and other concerns were being addressed by the village and law enforcement.
Going forward, Pearl stated that they would be watching the situation closely to help address residents’ concerns about gawkers, who are already trying to visit the home. “One of the things that we’re hearing a lot of now is people don’t want to live next to this home. They would like the home to be knocked down. We would love nothing more than to bring back the peace of the community or the neighborhood, of any memory of this incident. We’re not looking for an Amityville Horror type situation with people that are coming up to the house,” Pearl said.
The message from the village of Massapequa Park as a whole is one of empathy and respect: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families involved and affected by these horrific crimes. We thank all levels of law enforcement for their tenacity in bringing this case to justice. While we understand the intrigue surrounding this situation, we ask everyone to please be respectful of the community and the residents.”

The defendant has not yet been sentenced for these crimes.

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