Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. appeared at Newsday's Melville studios to talk about the Rex Heuermann / Gilgo killings investigation with columnist Joye Brown. NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Howard Schnapp; File Footage; Photo Credit: Suffolk County Police Department

This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Michael O'Keeffe, Sandra Peddie and Craig Schneider. It was written by O'Keeffe.

Two sex workers described accused Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex A. Heuermann as “violent” and “aggressive” during encounters they had with him, Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. said in an interview with Newsday on Thursday.

The sex workers were interviewed by members of the sheriff’s anti-human trafficking unit operating out of the two Suffolk County jails in Riverhead and Yaphank in late July, not long after the 59-year-old architect was arrested on July 13.

Toulon said the women told investigators that they became concerned for their safety during intimate encounters with the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Massapequa Park resident. Both women had just one meeting with Heuermann, and although they were not injured, they were both unnerved.

“A person of that size being a little aggressive was probably frightening,” Toulon said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Two sex workers described accused Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex A. Heuermann as “violent” and “aggressive” during intimate encounters they had with him, Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. told Newsday.
  • The sex workers were interviewed by members of the sheriff’s anti-human trafficking unit operating out of the two Suffolk County jails in Riverhead and Yaphank in late July, not long after the 59-year-old architect was arrested on July 13.
  • When asked what Heuermann's demeanor inside the jail is like, Toulon said, "I have not seen any emotion from him."

Heuermann has been at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead for about six weeks and appears to be settling in, Toulon said, adding the suspect spent the first few days isolated on his bunk, sleeping with his back against the wall and looking up at the ceiling a lot.

“I have not seen any emotion from him,” the sheriff responded when asked what Heuermann’s demeanor has been during his time behind bars. Toulon said the suspect has been “very emotionless” even though he has been accused of murdering three women and has been identified by authorities as a prime suspect in the death of a fourth Gilgo Beach victim.

“You wonder what is going on … Is there something going on inside that is brewing?” Toulon said.

Toulon, first elected Suffolk County sheriff in 2017, created the human trafficking unit in 2018. The unit — a sergeant and two correction officers — was created to help women who have been forced into sex work with substance-abuse counseling, vocational assistance, housing and other support.

The unit is interviewing sex workers incarcerated in Nassau and will soon begin speaking with sex workers at Rikers Island in New York City, Toulon said.

The idea behind the interviews, Toulon said, is to try and gather information that could help investigators working on the Gilgo case.

His office has created a database to keep track of the individuals they have identified. More than 300 people who have been held in Suffolk jails in Riverhead and Yaphank since the unit’s inception have been identified as sex workers, Toulon said, and almost 200 who have been incarcerated have been identified as traffickers.

The unit also gathers information on criminal activity — thanks to the relationships the sex-trafficking unit establishes with inmates — that it shares with Suffolk police and other law-enforcement agencies. Earlier this year, Toulon and his staff launched the Corrections Intelligence Center, which shares information about threats inside and outside of jails with dozens of agencies across the United States and some as far away as Australia, El Salvador and the United Kingdom.

“If there is a shooting in a particular community, these guys and girls are talking about it inside our facilities,” Toulon said. “They know who did it, why they did it, gang issues that are occurring.”

The task of keeping a high-profile inmate safe under his watch takes coordination and preparation, the sheriff said. He said Heuermann is in a special housing unit at the jail, where he spends 18 to 19 hours a day.

“He’s not just another inmate to me, and forget about the notoriety of this case,” Toulon added. “I’m really trying to look into his soul to see what is it about this guy that’s not about the other (900) inmates I’m dealing with.”

When he is not in his unit, Heuermann — no longer on suicide watch — goes for walks alone in a small recreation area. But inside the 60-square-foot cell where he lives, the Manhattan-based architect has been reading books, watching television, reading newspapers and mail.

Other than asking to meet with a clergyman once a week, Heuermann has not made any special requests or arrangements. Journalists and true-crime fans have asked to visit the alleged serial killer, but he has only met with his attorney, Michael Brown, and a man Toulon declined to identify.

Toulon, who worked in New York City corrections while high-profile prisoners such as Mafia boss John Gotti, subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz and convicted child killer Joel Steinberg were in custody, said his staff monitors the suspect closely, looking for any type of change in behavior to avoid potential issues.

The sheriff said jail personnel are looking for unusual behavior like pacing in the cell, putting his hand to his head, crying.

Those behavioral changes could crop up when prisoners realize they will be behind bars for a long period of time or when new evidence is presented against them, Toulon said.

“When they see the four walls of their cell start to close in, there is not much more that they can do,” Toulon said. “Three months ago, he was walking around the streets in New York City, he was eating at a deli …. It starts to weigh on someone who is incarcerated.”

Rex A. Heuermann after his arrest on murder charges in...

Rex A. Heuermann after his arrest on murder charges in the deaths of three sex workers whose bodies were found near Gilgo Beach in 2010. Credit: Suffolk County Sheriff’s Offic

Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree murder charges in the killings of Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Lynn Costello, three of 10 slaying victims whose remains were found along Ocean Parkway.

Authorities have said Heuermann is the “prime suspect” in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, whose remains were found with the other three victims in 2010. All four of the women were sex workers, officials said.

Heuermann’s attorney could not be immediately be reached for comment Thursday. Brown has said previously that his client, a seemingly successful architect and married father of two who has no prior criminal record, has denied committing the crimes.

Heuermann’s arrest last month may have been a step forward in solving the mystery of the long-unsolved killings. Prosecutors have said they linked Heuermann to three of the killings through DNA, cellular phone technology and an eyewitness statement. Authorities said they are also trying to solve the other six unsolved Gilgo Beach homicides.

It may take a year or longer before Heuermann’s case goes to trial, due to the massive amounts of evidence gathered by Gilgo Beach Task Force investigators that need to be shared with his defense team. After his arrest, investigators spent days searching his house, two units at a storage facility in Amityville, a Chevy Avalanche he used to own, his Manhattan office and two out-of-town properties.

Toulon said he urges his staffers not to let their guard down while the notorious murder suspect is housed at the Riverhead facility, where there were 421 inmates as of Thursday.

“I don’t want them to ever be complacent with anything, with any of his requests,” Toulon said. “If they feel it is unusual, bring it to a supervisor’s attention. If he is not acting right, make sure he gets the proper medical treatment.”

Added Toulon: “This is a very unique person, as far as what I can see so far.”

Even when Heuermann has to appear in court, Toulon said, the suspect can just walk from his jail cell to the courthouse through a “certain area,” without having to use a vehicle.

Officials still keep a close watch, Toulon said, to protect him from others.

“It’s more important to me that Mr. Heuermann has his justice in the courts and not in the jails,” Toulon said.

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