Suffolk County police did not elaborate on the reasons for bringing excavating equipment...

Suffolk County police did not elaborate on the reasons for bringing excavating equipment to the Massapequa Park home of Gilgo Beach suspect Rex A. Heuermann on Sunday. Credit: Jeff Bachner

This story was reported by Lisa L. Colangelo, Grant Parpan and Darwin Yanes. It was written by Parpan.

The search for evidence in the investigation of alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex A. Heuermann went underground Sunday afternoon as law enforcement used excavating equipment to dig in the backyard of his Massapequa Park home.

The use of the equipment signaled an intensifying search for evidence as the focus on the tenth day of the investigation appeared to have zeroed in on the rear of the First Avenue property.

Digging continued on and off for more than three hours as investigators combed for evidence to build the case against the Manhattan architect charged with killing three women.

A Suffolk County police spokesperson said the department would not comment on the dig or any other aspect of the search Sunday. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Investigators used excavating equipment in the backyard of Gilgo suspect Rex A. Heuermann's home on Sunday.
  • Digging continued on and off for more than three hours and the equipment remained in place on Sunday evening.
  • Residents of the Massapequa Park neighborhood-turned-crime-scene took the disruptions around them in stride.

Earlier in the day, police dogs were spotted roaming the property. As the sun began to set, investigators emerged from the backyard to load boxes, the contents of which were not revealed, into police trucks. The excavating equipment remained at the scene, where it may be used when the investigation continues Monday.

Residents of the Massapequa Park neighborhood-turned-crime-scene were taking the disruptions around them in stride.

Robert Musto of Michigan Avenue, which intersects with First Avenue near the home Heuermann shared with his wife and children, praised Suffolk police and state troopers for being helpful and understanding with residents.

Sunday marked the tenth day of investigators searching Heuermann's Massapequa...

Sunday marked the tenth day of investigators searching Heuermann's Massapequa Park home. Credit: James Carbone

"I think most of the people here are patient," said Musto, who has lived a handful of houses away from Heuermann for 40 years. "The police have been excellent. And I know the reporters have a job to do.”

As police could be seen walking past the large law enforcement vehicles that mostly block the view of the house where Heuermann, 59, has lived since childhood, Musto marveled at just how many people have visited what's now a true-crime landmark.

“It's the people coming here getting interviewed, they don't even live here. … it's crazy,” Musto said of the surreal scene, which has unfolded since the July 14 announcement of Heuermann’s arrest.

Musto said people stop and take pictures with their cellphones, even though it’s hard to decipher what’s happening on the property mere yards away.

The suspected serial killer's mugshot.

The suspected serial killer's mugshot. Credit: Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office

"You can't even see anything," he said.

Cathy Huber, who grew up in Massapequa, returned from North Carolina this weekend for her 40th class reunion, where Heuermann's arrest was on everyone's mind. Huber graduated from Berner High School two years after the suspected killer did in 1981.

"I must have had two years of high school with him, but I didn't know him," she said.

Huber said that while most of the reunion was spent catching up and sharing family pictures, chatter about the arrest could not be avoided.

"There was a lot of shock and surprise," she said.

Local resident Gabriella Hansen, 23, stopped while on a run through the neighborhood Sunday afternoon. She said it was quiet compared with another recent day, when almost two dozen spectators stood outside. After news of the digging broke, more spectators returned, some trying to capture investigators' efforts on video.

"It's kind of crazy," Hansen said of the activity. "But I'm sure most people understand."

Huber said the neighbors she spoke with were not concerned about the streets being closed or anything else happening outside their homes, understanding the importance of the work at hand.

"Take your time, get everything you need if you can get justice for these women," Huber said.

On Saturday, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison told reporters the “24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation” at the house will likely wrap up this week.

“The team effort is helping us get to a place where we can present it to Ray Tierney, the district attorney, and put this gentleman away for a very, very long period of time,” the commissioner said.

Heuermann’s next court appearance will be before State Supreme Court Justice Timothy Mazzei in Riverhead Aug. 1. The suspect is currently being housed in the neighboring correctional facility.

Heuermann is accused of killing Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello, sex workers whose remains were found in a wooded area along the roadway near Gilgo Beach in December 2010. He's also considered by investigators to be a "prime suspect” in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, whose body was found along with the others.

Gilgo Beach serial killings

More than a decade after the remains of 10 victims were found off Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach, Rex A. Heuermann has been charged with murder in three cases and is a prime suspect in a fourth.

Who is Rex Heuermann? The Massapequa Park architect lived in a rundown house and had strained interactions with neighbors. His second wife filed for divorce days after his arrest.

The victims: Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello were young women who were sex workers. Their bodies were discovered after another woman, Shannon Gilbert, made a frantic 911 call from the area that set off a police search.

The case: Investigators used DNA from pizza crust and stray hairs to tie the victims to Heuermann; burner cellphone data and a 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche also are key evidence in the investigation. 

The search: Police retrieved more than 200 guns from Heuermann's home and searched two Amityville storage facilities for evidence, including evidence connected to the victims.

Timeline: Key moments in the investigation, from the discovery of several sets of remains in 2010 to Heuermann’s arrest.

Full coverage of the Gilgo Beach serial killings

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