Crime

Gilgo Beach murder suspect charged with death of a 4th woman

Authorities announced Tuesday that Rex Heuermann was charged in the killing of 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes of Norwich, Connecticut.

Rex Heuermann appears in court.
Rex Heuermann appears in court.
James Carbone / Newsday via AP
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An architect charged in a string of slayings known as the Gilgo Beach killings was accused Tuesday in the death of a fourth woman, a Connecticut mother of two who vanished in 2007 and whose remains were found more than three years later along a coastal highway in New York.

Rex Heuermann was formally charged in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, months after having been labeled the prime suspect in her death when he was arrested in July in the deaths of three other women.

In court, Heuermann wore a dark suit and did not say anything during the proceedings. He will continue to be held without bail. The judge set the next court date for Feb. 6.

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney and other law enforcement officials planned a news conference following Tuesday’s court hearing.

Brainard-Barnes, 25, who was once employed as a dealer at the Foxwoods Resort Casino, left her hometown of Norwich, Connecticut, on July 9, 2007, and headed to Manhattan for sex work, with plans to return the following day, according to friends who became concerned when she uncharacteristically stopped using her phone.

She never came back.

How pizza crust DNA led to the arrest of Gilgo Beach murders suspect
How pizza crust DNA led to the arrest of Gilgo Beach murders suspect

How pizza crust DNA led to the arrest of Gilgo Beach murders suspect

Investigators say Heuermann could be connected to as many as 11 murders dating back to 2010 across two Long Island counties.

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Heuermann was arrested July 14 and charged with killing Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello, three women who authorities say also were sex workers. Heuermann’s lawyer said he has denied committing the crimes. He previously pleaded not guilty to killing Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello.

Brainard-Barnes was the first of the four women to disappear. Their remains were found along the same quarter-mile stretch of parkway in the Gilgo Beach area of Jones Beach Island in 2010. Additional searching turned up the remains of six more adults and a toddler who was the child of one of the victims.

Police concluded that an 11th person found dead in a tidal marsh on the same barrier island accidentally drowned.

Investigators have said Heuermann, who lived in Massapequa Park across the bay from where the bodies were found, was probably not responsible for all the deaths. Some of the victims disappeared in the mid 1990s.

Investigators zeroed in on Heuermann when a new task force ran an old tip about a Chevy Avalanche pickup through a vehicle records database. A hit came back identifying one of those make and models belonging to Heuermann, who lived in a neighborhood police had been focusing on because of cellphone location data and call records, authorities said.

The family of the Gilgo Beach suspect speaks out
The family of the Gilgo Beach suspect speaks out

The family of the Gilgo Beach suspect speaks out

Rex Heuermann's wife, Asa Ellerup, has breast and skin cancer and is about to lose her insurance.

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With the tip breathing new life into the investigation, authorities charted the calls and travels of multiple cellphones, picked apart email aliases, delved into search histories and collected discarded bottles — and even a pizza crust — for advanced DNA testing, according to court papers. Detectives said Heuermann’s DNA on the pizza crust matched a hair found on a restraint used in the killings.

Police said other evidence linked Heuermann to the victims, including burner cellphones used to arrange meetings with the slain women.

After the arrest, investigators spent nearly two weeks combing through Heuermann’s home, including digging up the yard, dismantling a porch and a greenhouse and removing many contents of the house for testing.