Suffolk County police have arrested a suspect in connection with the long-unsolved Gilgo Beach killings, which began with the discovery of the human remains of sex workers in 2010.
Rex A. Heuermann, 59, of Massapequa Park was arraigned and pleaded not guilty.
The Gilgo investigation has spanned 13 years, starting in 2010 with the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert in Oak Beach. In their search for Gilbert, whose body was eventually found more than a year after she went missing, police uncovered the remains of 10 other people including a toddler, pointing to a possible serial killer.
Over the years, many of these victims have been identified and officials have shared some evidence but no arrests had been made — until now.
Here is a timeline of key moments in the investigation starting with the latest updates.
Sept. 12: Heuermann's wife wants guns seized during home search returned, lawyer says
The attorney for Heuermann's estranged wife seeks to have his legally owned guns returned to the family’s Massapequa Park home, saying it’s marital property worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Robert Macedonio said his client, Asa Ellerup, who filed for divorce six days after the arrest of her husband of 27 years, has a right to retain ownership of any firearms that were possessed legally. He said he intends to file a notice of claim on the property after it is transferred to law enforcement in Nassau County for consideration of gun charges against Heuermann.
Sept. 8: Prosecutors seek to turn over hundreds of Heuermann's guns to Nassau, court filings say
Suffolk County prosecutors are seeking to turn over more than 280 firearms seized from Heuermann's home to Nassau County, where he could face gun possession charges, court filings in Suffolk County Criminal Court show.
Investigators in Suffolk County have concluded their analysis of the weapons and ammunition taken from Heuermann’s Massapequa Park home and determined some of the items may have been possessed in violation of state gun laws, the filing states.
“Proper jurisdiction for any charges related to unlawful possession of the items … would reside with Nassau County,” Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Opisso wrote in the motion filed with state Supreme Court Justice Timothy Mazze.
Sept. 6: Labor judgment filed against Heuermann, court filings show
The state commissioner of labor filed a $68,560 judgment against Heuermann for wages and penalties owed to a former executive assistant.
The judgment, filed in State Supreme Court in Albany by Commissioner Roberta Reardon, states that Heuermann had agreed in 2021 to pay the former employee of his Manhattan architecture firm nearly $20,000 in underpaid wages and vacation pay from February 2017 to March 2018 plus interest, liquidated damages and civil penalties amounting to nearly $85,000.
To date, Heuermann, owner of RH Consultants and Associates, has paid just $16,385 of what is owed, according to the filing.
Sept. 1: Investigators find no link between Heuermann and missing South Carolina woman, officials say
Officials in South Carolina said they have no information linking Heuermann to the disappearance of a local woman who went missing there in 2017.
In a statement, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office said that after several weeks of investigation police have come up with no evidence so far connecting missing person Julia Bean with Heuermann, or that the two may have been together, as some reports suggested.
"There is currently no evidence connecting Bean with Heuermann," the statement from the sheriff's office said.
Aug. 16: Heuermann submits to DNA test, sources say
Heuermann submitted to a cheek swab for Suffolk County prosecutors looking to bolster the DNA case against him, sources familiar with the case said.
The test took place on Aug. 16 at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead, where Heuermann has been held since his arrest on July 13.
Aug. 14: Heuermann taken off suicide watch, Suffolk sheriff says
Heuermann has been removed from suicide watch at the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead as he awaits trial on charges he killed three women whose remains were found near the beach 13 years ago, the top jail official said.
“Mental health staff at the jail have made the determination to remove Rex Heuermann from suicide watch at this time,” Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. said in a statement. “He will continue to be evaluated periodically. His housing and security protocols have not changed.”
Aug. 9: Judge rules Heuermann must submit to cheek swab
A Suffolk judge ruled that Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex A. Heuermann must submit to a cheek swab as prosecutors seek to bolster their case through stronger DNA evidence.
State Supreme Court Justice Timothy Mazzei, the presiding judge in the case of the Massapequa Park architect accused of killing three women, ruled prosecutors have enough probable cause to obtain the sample from Heuermann. Defense attorneys had sought to prevent prosecutors from obtaining the cheek swab.
Aug. 4: Investigators identify 'Fire Island Jane Doe'
The FBI positively identified the Gilgo Beach victim previously known as “Jane Doe No. 7” as Karen Vergata, a former Glen Head resident whose partial remains were found on Fire Island in 1996, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney announced.
“Today, we are here to announce that as part of the Gilgo Task Force re-examination of all the evidence in the case, we were able to identify 'Fire Island Jane Doe' as Karen Vergata, who was 34 years old at the time of her disappearance,” Tierney said.
Vergata, who lived on West 45th Street in Manhattan at the time she went missing on Feb. 14, 1996, worked as an escort, Tierney said. A missing persons report was not filed with police at the time, he said.
Aug. 1: Prosecutors turn over evidence at Heuermann's court appearance
Suffolk prosecutors turned over more than 2,500 pages of documents to the defense team representing alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex A. Heuermann at a conference in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.
Heuermann, wearing a dark blazer over a light blue shirt, made a brief appearance following a 32-minute conference in State Supreme Court Justice Timothy Mazzei’s chambers.
Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Nicholas Santomartino told the judge the evidence turned over includes photographs from the crime scenes where the bodies of the women Heuermann is accused of killing were located off Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach in 2020, plus autopsy reports, anthropological and DNA evidence as well as hundreds of hours of surveillance footage from around Heuermann’s home and a storage facility where he kept belongings.
The newly filed court documents also show Suffolk County prosecutors are seeking a cheek swab from Heuermann for more DNA testing to bolster their case.
Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Michelle Haddad said in court filings that prosecutors are looking to collect a cheek swab from Heuermann to test against a mitochondrial DNA profile developed from a pizza crust and “used napkin” he allegedly discarded in Manhattan, which prosecutors have said was matched to a hair sample found at the bottom of burlap used to “restrain and transport” the remains of one of the victims, Megan Waterman.
The motion by prosecutors and supporting statement, filed in criminal court in Riverhead, also sheds new light on how authorities obtained genetic material from Heuermann’s family and a shifting narrative about how each of the victims died.
July 26: Suffolk DA to prosecute case, office says
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney's office says he will lead the team that will prosecute Heuermann.
Tierney had already taken a hands-on role in the case by presenting evidence to the grand jury that indicted Heuermann and leading the prosecution at the defendant’s July 14 arraignment.
The unusual move will mark the first time Tierney has personally prosecuted a case since he took office in January 2022. He previously served as a federal prosecutor, trying cases in the Eastern District of New York as recently as 2021.
July 25: Investigators end search of Heuermann’s property
Police end their search of Heuermann’s Massapequa Park home, seizing a “massive amount” of potential evidence, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said.
Tierney declined to specify the material that investigators removed. He said any potential trace evidence that was found, which includes possible blood or DNA, has to go through a lengthy process of laboratory analysis.
Asked if investigators had found potential evidence that stuck out, Tierney said he would wait for a full accounting.
“I think everybody wanted that singular piece of evidence," Tierney said. "But we’re going to wait until we see all the evidence. But I don’t think anything jumps out at this juncture.”
July 24: Search has been 'fruitful,' Suffolk police commissioner says
The police search of Heuermann’s Massapequa Park home “has been fruitful” for investigators, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said, as authorities continued searching the suspect’s backyard.
“There have been items that we have taken into our possession that makes it fruitful,” Harrison said, speaking at the scene. “I will say that we will go into every single crevice to make sure that there's not something that we missed and things that are beneficial to this investigation."
Harrison declined to detail any of the potential evidence authorities have seized from the home, other than a cache of firearms from inside a vault with "a big iron door."
July 23: Search of Heuermann’s home goes underground
Law enforcement used excavating equipment in the backyard of Heuermann’s Massapequa Park home, digging on and off for more than three hours as they combed for evidence.
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.
July 21: Investigators look for possible connections to killings outside LI
Law enforcement investigators are probing for possible connections between suspected Heuermann and unsolved slayings around the country, including the killings of four women in 2006 near Atlantic City.
Since Heuermann's arrest, the investigation has expanded beyond Suffolk County to South Carolina and Nevada — where Heuermann also has connections.
“Investigators are looking into him in connection with cases around the nation including Atlantic City,” a Suffolk County Police Department spokesperson said.
July 20: Heuermann's wife files for divorce
Asa Ellerup — Heuermann’s wife — files a divorce proceeding against the incarcerated architect in Suffolk County Supreme Court, her lawyer Robert Macedonio confirmed.
The divorce filing came after Heuermann's wife and children expressed “shock, disappointment and disgust" over the allegations against Heuermann when they met with investigators, Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said earlier in the week.
July 19: Heuermann's Chevy Avalanche arrives in Suffolk
The green Chevrolet Avalanche the FBI seized in South Carolina, which investigators have referred to as a critical piece of evidence linking Gilgo suspect Rex A. Heuermann to the killings, is returned to Suffolk County.
Authorities at the Suffolk County Crime Lab said the truck transporting the vehicle arrived at about 4 a.m.
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney has said a witness had noticed a first-Generation Chevrolet Avalanche parked in the driveway of homicide victim Amber Costello’s residence in West Babylon.
The driver of the Avalanche contacted Costello on the night she went missing, according to court documents filed in Heuermann’s case, which state a witness also told police they observed a dark-colored truck pass the house shortly after Costello exited.
July 15-17: Heuermann's home, storage units searched
Suffolk County authorities continued to search Heuermann's Massapequa Park home for more evidence and begin searches at two storage units in nearby Amityville.
July 14, 2023: Heuermann arraigned on murder charges
Heuermann pleads not guilty to three counts each of first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello — three of the four victims whose remains were found in December 2010 in a wooded area along Gilgo Beach — during his arraignment in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.
Authorities also called him the “prime suspect” in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, whose body was also found at the time in the same area. All of the women worked as sex workers, authorities have said.
July 13, 2023: Gilgo suspect arrested
Suffolk County Police arrest a Massapequa Park man in connection with the killings.
Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation identified the suspect as Rex A. Heuermann, 59, of Massapequa Park.
October 2022: FBI seeks help in Alabama
The FBI seeks help from residents of Mobile, Alabama, to identify Gilgo Beach murder victim Jane Doe No. 3 and her toddler, a law enforcement source told Newsday.
Spring 2022: Police release new evidence
In April, Suffolk police release video that shows Gilgo Beach homicide victim Megan Waterman in a Hauppauge hotel just before she disappeared almost 12 years ago. Harrison said the department released the video to enlist the public’s help in solving the Gilgo killings.
The next month, police release new details about the first four Gilgo Beach victims and the chaotic 911 call made by Shannan Gilbert on the night of her disappearance.
“As the Homicide Squad continues its tireless work on this investigation, we believe now is the right time to disseminate this previously unreleased information in hopes of eliciting tips from the public and providing greater transparency about the victims,” Harrison said in a statement.
February 2022: Gilgo task force created
Harrison says he created a new task force to tackle the unsolved Gilgo Beach killings.
The multiagency Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation Task Force includes investigators from the Suffolk County Police Department and the FBI, as well as the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office and the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office. Some task force members will meet daily, he said.
"I’m very confident it’s going to help us identify a suspect going to the near future," Harrison said.
December 2021: New police commissioner focuses on Gilgo
Rodney K. Harrison becomes Suffolk's new police commissioner and says the Gilgo Beach homicide investigation is a top priority.
May 28, 2020: 'Jane Doe No. 6' is Valerie Mack
"Jane Doe No. 6" was publicly identified as Valerie Mack through genetic genealogy, a procedure in which DNA is compared to profiles uploaded by users of public genealogy websites.
Jan. 16, 2020: Evidence shared with public
An image of a black leather belt, which Hart called “a significant piece of evidence,” was made public. The belt is stamped with the letters "WH" or "HM.” A website for the public to submit tips was also released.
April 9, 2018: Hart takes over investigation
Geraldine Hart became the fourth Suffolk police commissioner to oversee the investigation, after a 20-year career with the FBI.
Dec. 13, 2011: Gilbert's remains found
Shannan Gilbert's remains were found in a marshy, mossy area in Oak Beach.
The families of the women wanted justice. And the larger community wondered if there was a killer in their midst.
Nov. 30, 2011: Police consider different theories
Six months later, then-Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said he believed there was only one killer.
Some theories that police considered: A man, maybe former law enforcement. Likely a Long Islander. Someone who solicits sex workers.
May 9, 2011: Suffolk DA says multiple killers could be responsible
Then-Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said the crimes might be the work of at least three killers.
April 11, 2011: More human remains found
A woman's skull was discovered along Ocean Parkway in Nassau County near Tobay Beach. The remains were genetically matched with remains discovered in 1996 in Davis Park on Fire Island, significantly expanding the timeline and geographic reach of the Gilgo Beach homicide investigation. This victim has not been identified. Police released a sketch depicting what she may have looked like.
Another set of human remains was also found in a plastic bag at Jones Beach State Park near Zach's Bay. The remains, through DNA analysis, were confirmed to be the mother of the female toddler found in Suffolk.
The mother’s partial remains were first discovered in Hempstead Lake State Park in 1997 and she has become known as “Peaches” due to a bitten heart-shaped tattoo of a peach on her body.
Investigators developed competing theories on who could be responsible.
April 4, 2011: Remains of toddler, two others found
The remains of three more people were found: a female toddler, a man, and a woman authorities called “Jane Doe No. 6.”
March 2011: Another body found
The dismembered body of another woman who worked as an escort was found. Her name was Jessica Taylor.
Dec. 13, 2010: Three more bodies found
Police found three other bodies, identified as Maureen Brainard Barnes, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello.
Authorities knew almost immediately they were pursuing a serial killer.
Dec. 11, 2010: First human remains found
While searching for Gilbert, a Suffolk police officer and his dog found remains near Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach that were later identified as Melissa Barthelemy.
May 1, 2010: Shannan Gilbert goes missing
Shannan Gilbert, a young woman who worked as an escort, disappeared after being called to a client's home in Oak Beach.
With John Valenti, Robert Brodsky, Anthony M. DeStefano, Nicole Fuller and Michael O’Keeffe