() — Rex Heuermann left his office near the Empire State Building and strolled down a still bustling Fifth Avenue as the sun set on a hot Thursday afternoon in Manhattan.
This 59-year-old architect, among whose clients included Catholic Charities, American Airlines and other tenants of John F. Kennedy International Airportappears in a Video obtained by affiliate WABC. walking quietly at the end of his working day. He had a bag slung over his shoulder and his left hand in his pocket when several men in dark suits and ties approached him.
Heuermann, tall and portly, towered over the law enforcement officers surrounding him. As passersby strolled leisurely down the avenue, he was taken into custody without incident in connection with a 13-year-old homicide investigation involving young female victims on Long Island’s south shore.
“Yes, the day has finally come when someone so … depraved at heart that they would kill individuals, innocent individuals in the prime of their lives, their young lives, is finally brought to justice,” the governor of California said Friday. New York, Kathy Hochul. “We hope this brings justice to this individual, but also peace to the families.”
That day finally came years after a bestselling nonfiction book, Netflix drama and podcast about a lengthy murder mystery that made national headlines became known as the Gilgo Beach murders.
Heuermann is charged with three counts of premeditated murder in the murders of Melissa Barthelemy in 2009, and Megan Waterman and Amber Costello the following year, according to the Suffolk County district attorney.
The alleged killer was living a double life in a Long Island town a short drive from where his remains were found, prosecutors said.
Heuermann, who told his lawyer he is not the killer, is also a prime suspect in the 2007 disappearance and death of a fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, according to a bail request filed by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. . He is yet to be charged in the case.
The victims, who worked as escorts, became known as the “Gilgo Four.”
On Friday, Heuermann was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty during an initial court appearance.
Heuermann wept after his arrest.
“I didn’t do this,” he told his court-appointed attorney, Michael Brown.
A crucial breakthrough in the case came in January, when investigators took a sample of leftover pizza that Heuermann dumped in the trash outside his Manhattan office, according to the bail request.
DNA tests linked it to a hair found in the burlap sack where Waterman’s remains were found.
a double life
Heuermann, the son of an aerospace engineer, lived with his wife and children in the cozy town of Massapequa Park, across the bay from where the wreckage was found, in far southeast Nassau County.
In a video interview posted online last yearWhen Suffolk County police formed an interagency task force to investigate the long-unsolved cases, Heuermann said he was born and raised on Long Island. He had been working as an architectural consultant in Manhattan since 1987.
“I spend my time solving architectural problems and negotiating with the building department,” Heuermann explained.
“When a job that should be routine suddenly isn’t, I get the call,” he added.
His father made a living building satellites, Heuermann told the interviewer. His father also made furniture in a workshop in the house where Heuermann grew up and still lives with his family.
Asked what his work has taught him about himself, Heuermann replied: “I think it has taught me more about how to understand people. Dealing with the technical aspects is something a person can learn… But it’s the people. And how they’re all so different and how you deal with people, I think that’s one of the most interesting things that’s come out of it.”
HR Consultants & Associates was founded by Heuermann and incorporated in 1994, according to the company’s website.
At the end of his online video, Heuermann donned a pair of sunglasses and posed for a selfie with his interviewer.
“Do you know how to smile?” Heuermann asked.
“That’s it,” he replied, indicating that he was smiling.
Putting together a complex puzzle
It took investigators nearly 15 years to track down Heuermann.
They first linked him to the murders last year while conducting an evidence review under a newly formed task force, which included the Suffolk County Police Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the State Police of New York and the FBI.
In March 2022, investigators discovered that a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche — the same type of truck a witness believed Costello’s killer was driving — was registered to Heuermann at the time of the slayings, according to the release request. on bail.
Armed with more than 300 subpoenas and search warrants, investigators began closing in on Heuermann.
Evidence revealed that the killer used disposable phones to contact the victims. Investigators discovered that the calls to the victims came from places connected to Heuermann.
Investigators said they narrowed cell tower searches from thousands of possible individuals to hundreds and then a handful of people. They focused on residents who matched the physical description provided by a witness who had seen the killer.
Task force members also learned that Heuermann lived near a Long Island cell site and worked near New York cell sites from which other calls originated.
According to the bail application, a series of “provocative” calls were made from Heuermann’s phone during the summer of 2009 in which a man admitted to killing Barthelemy and sexually assaulting his family members from the vicinity of Heuermann’s office in midtown Manhattan.
Heuermann also used disposable phones to contact sex workers or massage parlors, according to the bail application. And he created fake names for an email account used to search for “sex workers, sadistic torture-related pornography and child pornography,” according to the bail application.
A fictitious email account was used to send selfies “to solicit and arrange sexual activity.” Another was used to search for podcasts and documentaries about the investigation, as well as “images featuring the murdered victims and members of their immediate families,” according to the bail request.
Between March 2022 and June 23, Heuermann used the same account to run more than 200 searches on serial killers and articles on the task force investigating the Gilgo Beach murders, according to the bail request.
A rag, a bone and a skein of hair
A key breakthrough in the case came when investigators recovered Heuermann’s DNA from the pizza crust of a crumpled box he dumped in a Manhattan dumpster in January.
Initial examination of Waterman’s skeletal remains revealed a male hair from the “bottom of the burlap” that the killer used to wrap his body, according to prosecutors. Analysis of the DNA found on the victim and on the pizza showed that the samples were a match.
In addition, according to the bail application, hair from Heuermann’s wife was found on or near three of the victims. The DNA was collected from bottles in a garbage can outside Heuermann’s house.
The hairs were found in 2010 and had degraded. DNA tests at the time turned up no results, but recent mitochondrial DNA tests allowed researchers to make the connection, according to Tierney.
Heuermann’s wife and children were out of state when the three women are believed to have been killed, Tierney said. Investigators said his wife’s hair may have been transferred to the victims from her clothing.
Authorities, fearing that Heuermann might be tipped off that they were nearby, arrested him Thursday night.
“We were playing a one-match game,” Tierney told reporters. “We knew that the person responsible for these murders would be watching us.”
looking for closure
The case began with the search for a missing woman in 2010, which led to the discovery of multiple sets of human remains on Gilgo Beach.
By the time the remains of the missing woman, Shannan Gilbert, were found a year later, at least 10 sets of human remains had been recovered in two Long Island counties.
Gilbert’s remains were found on Tuesday, about 400 meters from the place where her bag was found the week before.
Tierney said Saturday that the task force’s work is not done.
“There are many other victims in that area,” he told . “There are a lot of families of victims who want closure. So you work for that.”
Authorities believe the death of Gilbert, whose disappearance led to the discovery of the other victims, may have been accidental and unrelated to the other murders.
The remains of the Gilgo four were found in brush along a 400-meter stretch of Ocean Parkway in Oak Beach over a two-day period in 2010.
Barthelemy’s skeletal remains were discovered near Gilgo Beach on December 11. Barthelemy, who was a sex worker, was last seen on July 12, 2009, at her apartment when she told a friend she was going to see a man, according to a Suffolk County website on the murders. .
The remains of three other women were found on December 13, 2010: Brainard-Barnes, billed as escort on Craigslist and was last seen in early June 2007 in New York; Amber Lynn Costello, who also advertised as an escort and was last seen leaving her North Babylon home in early September 2010; and Waterman, who also billed himself as escort and was last seen in early June 2010 at a Hauppauge Holiday Inn Express.
Heuermann was surprised when he was surrounded by officers and taken into custody near his office Thursday night, according to Tierney.
Speaking of the arrest, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said Friday: “Rex Heuermann is a demon who walks among us. A predator who ruins families. If it weren’t for the members of this task force I would still be on the streets today.”
‘s Kristina Sgueglia, Brynn Gingras, John Miller, Samantha Beech, Steve Almasy, Laura Dolan, Aya Elamroussi, Caroll Alvarado and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.