By: Andrea Cipriano, MAFP
Rex Heuermann, 59, is a suspected serial killer charged with the murders of three of the 11 Long Island Serial Killer / Gilgo Beach murders. Here’s everything you need to know about him — and the victims he’s accused of murdering.
Heuermann, like all defendants, is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
While spending time in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility, suspected Gilgo Beach killer Rex Heuermann received a letter from Keith Jesperson, the “Happy Face Killer.”
Jesperson said that Heuermann should confess to avoid the spectacle of a trial, and to try and get to prison quickly — where conditions would be better than in jail.
To everyone’s surprise, Heuermann wrote back. Below is the full letter.
FALL 2023 UPDATE
Rex Heuermann’s estranged family is asking for the guns to be returned to them so they can sell them for financial income. The suspected killer agrees, saying they “urgently need respite.” However, the Suffolk County District attorney had no comment. It’s likely that the firearms still need to be processed for ballistics against other crimes.
Recently, a judge ordered that Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuermann had to offer up a DNA buccal swab for a more complete genetic profile to compare against other crimes.
This is important because the DNA found on the pizza crust outside Heuermann’s office was only a mitochondrial sample — which is ineligible to be entered into statewide and national databases.
This buscall swab wil blow the door wide open on potential crime matches, particularly in Las Vegas, NV and Atlantic City, NJ, where officers are waiting to make a comparison.
Rex Heuermann — Quick Facts
Name: Rex Andrew Heuermann (59 years old)
Date Apprehended: Thursday, July 15, 2023, outside of his midtown Manhattan office building outside 373 Fifth Ave.
Known Active States: New York State, Nassau County. Heuermann currently resides in Massapequa, Long Island.
Investigating States: Law enforcement officials are searching in Chester, South Carolina, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Atlantic City, New Jersey for possible unsolved homicides of sex workers relating back to Heuermann.
Date of Gilgo Murders: July 10, 2009 — September 2, 2010
Background: Heuermann is a twice-married architect raising two children, including a son with special needs. He grew up in the Long Island home he lives in on 1st Ave. Rex’s father, an aerospace engineer, reportedly died when Rex was a pree-teen. He went to Berner High School, graduating class of 1981. He bought the house from his mom, Dolores, for $170,000 in 1994, according to property records.
Wife: Heuermann was married to Asa Ellerup, according to neighbors and reports. Ellerup filed for divorce against the suspected killer on July 19, 2023. Hair found on some of the victims matches Ms. Ellerup’s DNA. It’s possible her hair ending up at crime scenes is a result of DNA transfer from the alleged offender. It’s important to note Ms. Ellerup was out of the country during the time of Waterman and Costello’s murders.
Charges and Plea: Three counts of first degree murder, and three counts of second degree murder for the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Costello. Heuermann has pleaded not guilty.
Gilgo Four Victims: Know their names.
All of the Gilgo Four victims were young, petite women approximately 22 to 27 years old, believed to be working as sex workers. All of the victims had missing clothing and had no personal possessions, all killed by homicidal violence. Each victim was found positioned and bound in a similar way, either by leather belts or tape, and were discovered wrapped in a camouflage burlap-type material. They were all strangled.
The four women were found when investigators began looking for Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker from Jersey City, New Jersey, who was reported missing on Long Island in May of 2010.
Melissa Barthelemy — Last Seen July 12, 2009
Melissa Barthelemy, 24, was born on April 14, 1985. Her loved ones say she was an aspiring hair stylist looking to make ends meet. She lived in an apartment on Underhill Avenue in the Bronx. She was last seen on July 12, 2009 depositing $1,000 into her bank account. That night, she was going to meet a client out on Long Island. It’s believed that the client was Heuermann.
After that night, Melissa’s cell phone was reportedly being used by her killer, making calls a few days after they met, with a final call on August 26 or 27, 2009. He made taunting remarks to Melissa’s younger sister, Amanda. These calls originated from both Massapequa and crowded areas in New York City, including Madison Square Garden and Times Square.
Megan Waterman — Last Seen June 6, 2010
Megan Waterman, 22, was born on January 18, 1988. She was living in Scarborough, Maine, where she was taking care of her young daughter. In the summer of 2010, she took a trip to New York to work as a sex worker.
She would frequently call her daughter. Megan was last seen on June 6, 2010 at 1:30am leaving the Holiday Inn Express hotel she was staying at in Hauppauge, New York. She waited in the lobby and later exited the building.
This still image from the footage was released in April of 2022.
Amber Costello — Last Seen September 2, 2010
Amber Costello, 27, was born on February 10, 1983. She was from Wilmington, North Carolina. Amber had lived in Florida for a few years before she moved to New York after her second marriage ended in 2009.
She was a sex worker living with a roommate. On September 2, 2010, she left her home at 10:30pm in North Babylon to meet a male client. Before stepping outside, she was last on the phone with the client, who told her he was down the street and offered her $1,500 for her services. She left the horse without her phone. Her body was discovered on December 13, 2010.
Heuermann has not been charged in connection to the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, even though she is one of the Gilgo Four and his wife’s hair was found at her crime scene. It’s noted in the July 14th bail application from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office that Heuermann is the prime suspect in her death. Authorities haven’t formally accused him in her murder because the burner phone cell tower records no longer exist.
Who is the suspected Gilgo Beach Killer?
Rex A. Heuermann, 59, a married father of two and an architect at a New York City firm, is the suspected Gilgo Beach Killer. He has a home on 1st Avenue in Massapequa Park, where he has permits for 92 firearms. Heuermann was accused of the murders of the Gilgo Four, but not all 11 homicide victims were discovered along Gilgo Beach. He has pleaded not guilty.
The New York Times reports that he was not a well-liked neighbor. While chopping wood in the front yard of his dilapidated house, he would scowl at onlookers or people walking by. Other parents reportedly cautioned their children to avoid the house on Halloween — with one parent going as far as to throw the candy out that came from his home.
Heuermann’s home, circa November 2011 via Google Maps. That Chevy Avalance was recovered in Chester County, South Carolina near his brother’s property soon after his arrest.
Earlier in 2023, reporters say Heuermann was kicked out of a Whole Foods for stealing clementines meant for kids. A clerk at the store said he was sweaty and wearing a dingy T-shirt and shorts while putting three clementines in his pocket, then took more. When she confronted him, Heuermann reportedly yelled back and became so heated that a manager escorted him out.
In addition to the Whole Foods incident, a young Long Island woman revealed she had a disturbing encounter with the murder suspect in early July at a local park. She was so shaken by the interaction that she filed a police report.
Ally, 25, said she encountered Heuermann on July 3rd in Brady Park while going for a bike ride. She says he came up behind her to ask what time it was and he followed her, trying to compliment her. He attempted to ask her if she came to the park often, and what her name was.
Ally says he had dirty clothes on, and would randomly appear right out of the woods, pestering her. She became so unsettled by him that she called her sister to come pick her up because she was afraid to bike home.
Despite these reports of strange interactions, some people who have worked with him professionally in the past say he had an eye for detail, was attentive, and somehow always kept up with his busy work schedule even as victims were vanishing.
Nicole Brass, 34, who went out with Rex Heuermann eight years ago while working as an escort, said he gleefully talked about the Gilgo Beach murders before trying to pressure her into going to a hotel with him. Brass also said he shared information about the cases not widely known.
Rex Heuermann reportedly planned to retire to his secluded property in rural South Carolina near his brother, Craig, according to neighbors.
How did Rex Heuermann become the No. 1 suspect?
Investigators say a new look at cold clues was the key to finding and catching Rex Heuerman.
In January 2022, when the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office established a team of investigators, analysts, and prosecutors to work jointly with law enforcement partners to create the Gilgo / LISK Task Force, the case heated up again.
A comprehensive review of evidence from the victims’ cases lead the joint investigation to search for the owner of a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche that a witness identified from the disappearance of Amber Costello.
Based on the timing of their interaction, the team knew that the driver of that car was her killer.
They had a solid description from the witness, Amber’s roommate, back in 2010 to go off of: a large, white man, approximately 6’4” to 6’6” in height, in his mid-forties, with “dark bushy hair,” and “big oval style 1970’s type eyeglasses.” The roommate said he appeared like an “ogre.”
Then, on March 14, 2022, two months into the renewed investigation, they discovered a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche that was registered to Rex Heuermann at the time of the murders. His physical description and age matched what the witness gave the police.
From there, the task force initiated a comprehensive investigation consisting of 300 subpoenas, search warrants, and other legal processes to obtain more information and evidence.
How was Rex Heuermann caught?
4️⃣ Major Facts
The bail application revealed that Heuermann was caught thanks to:
- The presence of his wife’s DNA at the crime scenes;
- His own DNA found at the crime scenes;
- His internet searches regarding the LISK investigation; and,
- Graphic and violent pornography.
In July of 2022, four months after learning of Heuermann’s identity and his ownership of a Chevrolet Avalanche, investigators took his wife’s DNA off of bottles left out for trash collection in front of their family’s home.
This was a critical step in identifying who the female hairs discovered at the crime scene belonged to. Female hair was discovered with Maureen Brainard-Barnes’ remains — stuck on the buckle of one of the belts used to restrain her. Female hair was also recovered from duct tape used to bind Megan Waterman, and inside the burlap wrapping near Amber Costello’s head.
All the female hair found on the victims matched Asa Ellerup’s DNA. Currently, Heuermann’s wife’s hair on Brainard-Barnes is the most significant evidence connecting him to her. Authorities haven’t formally accused him in her case because of missing cell phone records.
While investigators were working on the female hair DNA, a surveillance team recovered a pizza box thrown out by Heuermann in January of 2023.
Pizza evidence photos via the official Bail Application document.
The box with food scraps was then sent to the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory for analysis, where experts were able to take a DNA sample.
This DNA sample from the pizza matched a male hair discovered at the bottom of the burlap used to transport Megan Waterman’s naked and deceased body in 1988.
In the evening on Thursday, July 13, 2023, Heuermann was apprehended by plainclothes NYPD officers on a crowded Midtown Manhattan street.
What other evidence do they have against Heuermann?
The bail document released ahead of Friday, July 14th’s press conference shows that the Gilgo Beach Task Force investigation consisted of over 300 subpoenas, search warrants and other legal processes to obtain evidence.
Among the items uncovered were cell phone billing records corresponding to locations to purchase burner cell phones that Heuermann used to arrange meetings with three of the four victims. Investigators were also able to connect Heuermann’s cell phone bill records to the burner cell phones he used to make calls to the sister of murder victim, Melissa Barthelemy.
“Is this Melissa’s little sister?” an unknown man asked when the girl on the other end picked up the line.
“Yes,” replied Melissa’s 16-year-old sister, Amanda.
“Do you know what your sister is doing?” he said. “She’s a whore.”
Beyond the phone calls, police were able to connect the cell tower ping locations of Maureen Brainard-Barnes’ cell phone, Melissa Barthelemy’s cell phone, Megan Waterman’s cell phone, and Amber Costello’s hotel location all to burner phones Heuermann had at the times of their murders.
Heuermann used a new burner phone for every victim.
Most recently, investigators have 2023 surveillance footage of Heuermann purchasing additional minutes on his latest burner cell phone (number ending in 2671). That same phone revealed selfie photographs taken by Heuermann of himself and sent to other women to solicit and arrange for sexual activity.
Rex Heuermann burner phone selfies via the official Bail Application document.
What internet evidence do they have against Heuermann?
The suspected serial killer did extensive online searches on the Gilgo murders, including over 200 searches within a four-month span.
Subpoenas uncovered digital evidence regarding internet searches associated with the Thomas Hawk email account and persona that are enough to make anyone shudder. Without going into explicit detail, there were thousands of searches related to sex workers, sadistic, torture-related pornography, and child pornography.
One search allegedly asked: “Why hasn’t the long island [sic] serial killer been caught?” While another stated, “Why could law enforcement not trace the calls made by the long island serial killer,” a bail application says.
These are just a few of dozens of searches related to the Long Island Serial Killer / Gilgo Beach Murders connected to emails or burner phone cell numbers belonging to Heuermann.
Overall, his junk emails and burner phones present an online pattern of contacting sex workers, doing extensive searches for Gilgo Four victims and their surviving family members, violent pornography, and information about authorities investigating his crimes.
Why wasn’t Heuermann charged with the deaths of other Gilgo Beach / LISK victims?
Currently, Heuermann is only charged with killing Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello.
In other words, there’s currently no evidence that connects Heuermann to other victims, but this could still change as officials insist their renewed investigation is far from over. In addition, a New York State Police press conference held on July 17 noted that Heuermann is responsible for the three deaths “at minimum.”
“We’re just in the infancy of the work that needs to be done going forward,” Deputy Commissioner Anthony Carter told The Associated Press on July 17.
Investigators are still checking to see if Heuermann’s DNA is connected to other unsolved cases, in New York state and beyond.
Are they searching Heuermann’s house, car, and storage unit?
Crime laboratory officers arrived at Heuermann’s house on Friday, July 14, 2023. They wore their official Tyvek suits, shoe coverings, blue gloves, and blue hair nets. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez for the AP photographed seven crime lab officers suiting up and heading into the house while being briefed by a police officer. It’s likely there were more crime scene techs working inside the house.
Investigators were later seen lugging a cooler from the house, as well as blue bins filled with items from the home. The bins were then emptied into a truck. That same day, Heuermann’s truck was towed away for further forensic analysis.
Over the weekend following his arrest, investigators also hauled out a child-sized, fair-haired doll kept in a large ornate wooden and glass case.
On Monday, July 17, 2023, more investigating took place. Police were seen digging up the home’s backyard, removing big pieces of furniture from inside the house, and collecting backpacks. Crime scene technicians were also seen taking some of the guns out of the house. We know Heuermann has permits for 92 firearms, and they identified a large safe with guns. Shockingly, investigators discovered up to 300 guns stashed in his home — more than double what he had permits for.
Officers have reportedly found a soundproof room in the basement of accused Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex Heuermann’s home where they believe at least one woman may have been killed — and brought in cadaver dogs, a backhoe and ground-penetrating radar to try to locate possible bodies and “trophies” in his back yard.
Investigators have been digging in Heuermann’s yard by hand while also removing bags of items from the property and dismantling a wooden deck. A drone video caught a backhoe digging a large hole in Heuermann’s backyard, as detectives in white hazmat suits took pictures and gathered evidence with ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs at work.
According to neighbors, Heuermann routinely burned garbage, would frequently sit in his running car in front of the home with the lights on as late as 2am, and once dug a hole in his yard in the middle of the night.
A police source said they were looking through the house and car to see if there’s any evidence or trophies taken from the victims.
On Tuesday, July 18, 2023, property searches have started at least 700 miles away to South Carolina, where the FBI and local cops have raided properties tied to Heuermann and his relatives.
Photo credit: James Carbone
Also on July 17, police confirmed that they are now searching for more clues and executed a search warrant at an Omega Self Storage unit in Amityville, NY, connected to Heuermann. The location is less than a 10-minute drive from his house in Massapequa. Officials from the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory and the Medical Examiner’s office, some wearing masks, were seen canvassing the storage unit for evidence.
What car did Heuermann drive?
Rex Heuermann drove a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche during the time of the murders.
This is relevant to the investigation because a witness to the disappearance of Amber Costello identified a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche as the vehicle believed to have been driven by her killer.
Who is Rex Heuermann’s lawyer?
Suffolk County attorney Michael Brown is representing the suspected serial offender. Brown says on his website that he is a former Suffolk County prosecutor with over 25 years of experience. He has won awards from the Suffolk County Criminal Bar Association and the Suffolk County Court Officials Benevolent Association.
“I’ll represent you from the beginning until the conclusion of the case. You’ll come in. I’ll meet with you in my office. We’ll develop a strategy once we talk about your case and I will see your case through till the end,” his website says.
What are the official documents available in Heuermann’s case?
Bail Application and Case Summary, posted July 14, 2023
Content about the Gilgo Beach Murders / LISK
Watch the trailer here!