Suspect Arrested in Serial Killings of Women Near Gilgo Beach

Suspect Arrested in Serial Killings of Women Near Gilgo Beach
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In all, the remains of nine women, a man and a toddler have been found in the area on Long Island. Investigators believe some deaths were the work of a serial killer.

A man has been arrested in a series of killings of women near Gilgo Beach on Long Island’s South Shore, law enforcement officials said on Friday.

Rex Heuermann, an architect who had lived most of his life in Nassau County and worked in Manhattan, was taken into custody in connection with at least some of the killings, said an official with knowledge of the case.

By Friday morning, police officers had cordoned off his home, a small, one-story house with faded red paint, on a block of First Avenue in Massapequa Park, where vehicles and officers converged on the scene.

The authorities made the arrest in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday night, said Rodney Harrison, the Suffolk County police commissioner, during a brief news conference outside the house late Friday morning. The suspect was expected to be indicted Friday afternoon, said Commissioner Harrison, who did not name the person arrested.

“The nonstop dogged determination” of several agencies led to the arrest, said Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, adding that he hoped it would bring “justice for these victims and closure for these families who have suffered.”

The killings terrorized residents for more than a decade as body after body was discovered in the remote area about 40 miles from Midtown. In all, remains of nine women, a man and a toddler were discovered in the area. For years, investigators have probed whether the killings had been committed by one person or by multiple killers.

“The work is not done, but this is a major, major step forward,” Mr. Bellone said.

Mr. Heuermann lived most, if not all, of his life in Massapequa Park, a tidy working-class suburb roughly an hour by train or car from Midtown Manhattan. Neighbors described him as an “average” man who walked to the Massapequa Park train station every day, wearing a suit and toting a briefcase.

“Seeing him walk to the train, you’d never think he was anything but a businessman,” said a neighbor, Barry Auslander.

“After hearing about this case for so many years, it’s a shock,” said a neighbor, Cheryl Lombardi.

No one answered the phone at Mr. Heuermann’s firm, RH Consultants and Associates, on Friday morning. An email seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Mr. Heuermann described himself in a February 2022 interview as an architect and an architectural consultant who closely read building and administrative codes and kept an “extensive library of obsolete books.”

“I’m a troubleshooter, born and raised on Long Island, been working in Manhattan since 1987 — very long time,” he said in the 18-and-a-half-minute interview with Antoine Amira, a real estate agent and host of a show called Bonjour Realty on YouTube.

It was not known on Friday how many of the killings had been linked to Mr. Heuermann.

One of the first deaths that came to light was in May 2010, when Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old from Jersey City, N.J., who worked as an escort, was reported missing on Long Island. She disappeared while visiting a client in Oak Beach, a gated community three miles from Gilgo Beach.

Seven months later, Suffolk County police discovered four bodies wrapped in burlap along Ocean Parkway, three miles from where Ms. Gilbert was last seen alive. In 2011, they were identified by DNA as Amber Lynn Costello, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Megan Waterman and Melissa Barthelemy. All had been in their 20s and working as escorts. Later that year, they found remains of Valerie Mack, a 24-year-old mother from southern New Jersey who had paid the bills as an escort and had been missing for 20 years.

Ms. Gilbert’s remains were found in December 2011, but investigators have said they do not believe her death is linked to the serial killer. Ms. Gilbert’s family has disagreed and demanded the release of more evidence.

The police have said they believe some of the deaths were the work of a serial killer, but the investigation bore little fruit for years.

In 2020, investigators at a news conference revealed a photograph of what they said was a significant piece of evidence collected early in the investigation: a black leather belt, embossed with a pair of letters about half an inch tall. Investigators said it spells out the initials “W H” or “H M.”

Neighbors of Mr. Heuermann said he attended Alfred G. Berner High School and lived in his longtime family home, which had vegetation on a roof that was partly supported by bare wood. With its cracked and faded shingles and unkempt yard, the small house stood out from the neatly kept homes on the block.

Other neighbors said people on the block avoided the house on holidays like Halloween because it was unkempt and no one knew the residents.

In the interview with Mr. Amira, Mr. Heuermann said his father was an aerospace engineer who helped build satellites and crafted furniture at home. Mr. Heuermann said he also built furniture out of a workshop at his house.

Sitting at a desk and dressed in a light blue button-down shirt, Mr. Heuermann described the “patience” and “tolerance” needed to deal with out-of-town architects intimidated by New York’s byzantine building regulations.

His job, he said, taught him more about “how to understand people.”

At the end of the interview, Mr. Amira asked Mr. Heuermann to pose for a selfie. Mr. Heuermann, a tall, heavyset man who towered over Mr. Amira, put on a pair of black sunglasses.

First Published on nytimes.com

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