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Gilgo Beach Killings Suspect Hears Catalog of Evidence Against Him

Jun 27, 2023


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Suffolk County’s district attorney personally appeared at a brief session for the man accused of murder in three cases and named as the prime suspect in a fourth.

By Chelsia Rose Marcius

The voices of those seated in a Long Island courtroom fell to a whisper on Tuesday as Rex Heuermann shuffled in, his hair rumpled, his wrists handcuffed and his mouth drawn tight.

Mr. Heuermann, the man charged with killing three women and burying their bodies near Gilgo Beach in a case that confounded authorities for years, did not glance at the roughly 140 spectators. Some were relatives of those who were killed. Others were members of the press who had reported on Mr. Heuermann but had never seen him in person.

Mr. Heuermann turned to face the judge and waited.

Little had been known about the hearing in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, N.Y., early Tuesday morning. It was referred to merely as a “conference” in court records and, in most cases, it would have been a routine appearance.

Yet roughly 250 reporters, producers, photo journalists and videographers waited for hours to watch the eight-minute proceeding. It was the second time Mr. Heuermann, a 59-year-old architectural consultant in Manhattan who has denied the charges, had appeared before a judge since his arrest on July 13.

Prosecutors on Tuesday said that they gave Mr. Heuermann’s lawyer, Michael J. Brown, four two-terabyte hard drives that contained 2,500 pages of documents and photographs, and hundreds of hours of video collected by the police and prosecutors.

At a news conference after the proceeding, Suffolk County’s district attorney, Raymond A. Tierney, said “the charges in the indictment are just allegations” and this evidence “is the first step in the process of proving those allegations.”

Mr. Tierney said he would lead the prosecution of Mr. Heuermann, a rare move for a district attorney in such a large county. He has repeatedly appeared on national television to discuss the case.

During the hearing, Nicholas J. Santomartino, an assistant district attorney, told the court that prosecutors had given Mr. Heuermann’s lawyer only the first portion of evidence. The accused man nodded slowly as Mr. Santomartino continued.

The prosecutor said there were the autopsy reports of Amber Lynn Costello, 27; Melissa Barthelemy, 24; and Megan Waterman, 22, three of the 11 bodies discovered along a stretch of shore between 2010 and 2011.

There were also details about genetic material that authorities had collected and tested, as well as video of the crime scenes and Mr. Heuermann’s office, storage unit and his home in Massapequa Park.

Mr. Heuermann was charged last month with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Ms. Costello, Ms. Barthelemy and Ms. Waterman. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He has not been charged in the other eight killings, though Mr. Tierney said last month he was the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, who went missing in July 2007. Ms. Costello, Ms. Waterman, Ms. Barthelemy and Ms. Brainard-Barnes all worked as escorts, and their bodies were found close together.

On Tuesday, Mr. Brown, the defense lawyer, told reporters outside the courthouse that he had several manila envelopes containing the hard drives tucked inside his leather briefcase. He said he was “planning to go through it as soon as I get back to my office.”

Of Mr. Heuermann, he added: “He is going to be a big part in assisting us in the defense of this case.”

Mr. Heuermann’s arrest last month came soon after a task force examined every element of the case. Investigators focused on collecting and retesting DNA evidence, as well as cellphone records.

The three women Mr. Heuermann is accused of killing had been contacted by several different burner phones from two locations — near his home on First Avenue in Massapequa Park and near his office at Fifth Avenue and 36th Street in Manhattan — that would eventually link him to the crimes.

Since then, more details about Mr. Heuermann have emerged. High school classmates have described him as a loner bullied by his peers, but a victim with a mean streak. Last month, prosecutors and the police called him a sadistic serial killer who liked perverse pornography and who kept an arsenal of weapons in a basement vault.

Following his arrest, throngs gathered near the small, rundown red house where Mr. Heuermann had lived with his wife, Asa Ellerup, who filed for divorce soon after he was charged. Onlookers watched as investigators removed evidence packed in boxes and bags. Authorities also excavated his backyard in search of clues.

Police officials left the house last week, and Ms. Ellerup and her adult children returned to the home. Ms. Ellerup said in an interview with The New York Post that she had woken in the middle of the night “shivering” because of anxiety, and that her children — Victoria Heuermann, 26, and Christopher Sheridan, 33 — “cry themselves to sleep.”

Ms. Ellerup said she has stayed up late trying to comfort her son, who has developmental disabilities. “I said, ‘We’re together,’” she told The Post. “‘That’s really what matters right now. That you and me are sitting here together and we will get through this.’”

Lola Fadulu contributed reporting.

Chelsia Rose Marcius covers breaking news and criminal justice for the Metro desk, with a focus on the New York City Police Department. More about Chelsia Rose Marcius