Two days after Rex Heuermann was arrested and charged with murder in the Gilgo Beach killings, the surprise of being so close is still fresh in the neighbors' minds. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone; Debbie Egan-Chin; File Footage

This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, LIsa Colangelo, Brinley Hineman and Brianne Ledda and was written by Colangelo.

Residents of the Gilgo Beach area expressed relief Sunday that an arrest was made in several of the unsolved killings that, to many, have become synonymous with their picturesque ocean front community.

Meanwhile, residents in Massapequa Park watched Sunday as police continued to pull evidence from the home of Rex A. Heuermann, the architect charged with murder in the killings of three women found in the marshes and bramble near Gilgo.

Colin Armata, a lifeguard at Gilgo Beach, said he grew up in West Gilgo, spending time wandering the trails that weave through the area.

“Little did you know that there might be a body there,” said Armata, 30, who admitted he was a “nervous wreck” when he first heard about the killings.

Any relief that came with Heuermann’s arrest was tempered by the fact that he hasn’t been connected with all victims whose remains were found buried in the wooded area, Armata said.

Ed Finnegan, 65,  of West Gilgo said the arrest was “long overdue.”

He remembered thinking when the case first broke, “Holy smokes, what’s going on? We live in this quiet little community and now all these bodies are being found.”

Heuermann, 59, pleaded not guilty on Friday in the killings of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. Authorities described him as a “strong suspect” in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

The remains of all four women were discovered in December 2010 near Gilgo Beach. All four worked as escorts and had not been seen for at least months -- and in some cases years -- by friends and family.

Law enforcement officials have not linked Heuermann to the other human remains uncovered in the Gilgo Beach area.

DNA evidence from a pizza box as well as cellular phone site data helped link Heuermann to the killings, authorities said.

Joe Chambers, 38, who grew up in West Babylon and sports an Ocean Parkway tattoo on his chest, stopped by for a swim near Gilgo Beach on Sunday.

"This is our family beach spot," said Chambers, who now lives in Nebraska. “When the news first broke, it was pretty scary and pretty disturbing because, I mean, it's like right here. It's our whole world."

He was happy to hear about the arrest and was struck by the fact that court papers said Heuermann’s DNA was pulled from a leftover pizza crust.

"That's the most Long Island thing that I have ever heard in my whole life," he said.

Dorian Dale of West Gilgo Beach said he hopes the arrest is bringing some kind of peace to the families of the victims. But he never felt unsafe for himself or his family in their beachfront neighborhood. Still, old friends are “coming out of the woodwork,” to ask if he feels relieved since the arrest.

“We always wondered how someone could get through bayberry bushes and blackberry vines” to the site where the bodies were buried, said Dale, who is the director of sustainability and chief recovery officer at Suffolk County and grew up summering in the area. “It’s very dense and difficult.”

Mike Cavanaugh, a summer resident at Gilgo Beach, said he's been upset with the media coverage referring to the "Gilgo Beach killer."

"Not one single body was found here. They were either found to the east or the west," he said. "It's sort of disheartening living in Gilgo and hearing people almost denigrate the town when in fact nothing has happened here." Some of the bodies were found between Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach.

He's glad the police "stuck with" the investigation and said if Heuermann is the one who committed the murders, he hopes he "goes to jail forever."

The streets outside Heuermann's architecture practice in midtown Manhattan on Sunday were cleared of the police, crime scene unit and county vehicles that had been parked, and sometimes double parked, along Fifth Avenue and East 36th Street earlier in the weekend, when investigators had been going in and out of the building with boxes of evidence.

But activity continued outside Heuermann's red-paneled Massapequa Park home where law enforcement personnel from Nassau County, Suffolk County and State Police, some wearing protective gear and face masks, removed furniture including wooden drawers, and what appeared to be a TV stand and piece of fencing.

Just a few days ago, the corner of Michigan Avenue and First Avenue was unremarkable and quiet, said Bob Musto, a neighbor of Heuermann and a 40-year resident. Now, the corner was filled with people craning their necks and snapping pictures on their phone, eager to catch a glimpse of police working a serial killer case.

Unlike others in the close-knit community, Heuermann never exchanged a wave or hello with neighbors, said Musto.

"I wouldn't know them if they walked across my lawn," Musto said while sitting on his front porch steps watching the investigation. "It's weird living so close to somebody and not knowing them."

Karen Witzgall, 52, said she had mixed feelings upon discovering the person charged with murders that have haunted Long Island for years lived just a few blocks away.

"My first reaction was relief to know the person was finally in custody," she said while on a walk around the neighborhood. "When I see the scene, it makes me think of my children and wondering if they've ever had an encounter with him."

She doesn’t believe Heuermann’s arrest will change the friendly atmosphere.

"This is still a great neighborhood," she said.

Residents of the Gilgo Beach area expressed relief Sunday that an arrest was made in several of the unsolved killings that, to many, have become synonymous with their picturesque ocean front community.

Meanwhile, residents in Massapequa Park watched Sunday as police continued to pull evidence from the home of Rex A. Heuermann, the architect charged with murder in the killings of three women found in the marshes and bramble near Gilgo.

Colin Armata, a lifeguard at Gilgo Beach, said he grew up in West Gilgo, spending time wandering the trails that weave through the area.

“Little did you know that there might be a body there,” said Armata, 30, who admitted he was a “nervous wreck” when he first heard about the killings.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Residents of the Gilgo Beach area expressed relief Sunday that an arrest has been made in several of the unsolved killings that, to many, have become synonymous with their ocean front community.
  • Residents in Massapequa Park watched as police continued to pull evidence from the home of Rex A. Heuermann, who is charged in the killings of three women.
  • The streets outside Heuermann's architecture practice in Manhattan were clear of police, crime scene unit and county vehicles on Sunday.

Any relief that came with Heuermann’s arrest was tempered by the fact that he hasn’t been connected with all victims whose remains were found buried in the wooded area, Armata said.

Ed Finnegan, 65,  of West Gilgo said the arrest was “long overdue.”

He remembered thinking when the case first broke, “Holy smokes, what’s going on? We live in this quiet little community and now all these bodies are being found.”

Heuermann, 59, pleaded not guilty on Friday in the killings of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. Authorities described him as a “strong suspect” in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

The remains of all four women were discovered in December 2010 near Gilgo Beach. All four worked as escorts and had not been seen for at least months -- and in some cases years -- by friends and family.

Law enforcement officials have not linked Heuermann to the other human remains uncovered in the Gilgo Beach area.

DNA evidence from a pizza box as well as cellular phone site data helped link Heuermann to the killings, authorities said.

Joe Chambers, 38, who grew up in West Babylon and sports an Ocean Parkway tattoo on his chest, stopped by for a swim near Gilgo Beach on Sunday.

"This is our family beach spot," said Chambers, who now lives in Nebraska. “When the news first broke, it was pretty scary and pretty disturbing because, I mean, it's like right here. It's our whole world."

He was happy to hear about the arrest and was struck by the fact that court papers said Heuermann’s DNA was pulled from a leftover pizza crust.

"That's the most Long Island thing that I have ever heard in my whole life," he said.

Dorian Dale of West Gilgo Beach said he hopes the arrest is bringing some kind of peace to the families of the victims. But he never felt unsafe for himself or his family in their beachfront neighborhood. Still, old friends are “coming out of the woodwork,” to ask if he feels relieved since the arrest.

“We always wondered how someone could get through bayberry bushes and blackberry vines” to the site where the bodies were buried, said Dale, who is the director of sustainability and chief recovery officer at Suffolk County and grew up summering in the area. “It’s very dense and difficult.”

Mike Cavanaugh, a summer resident at Gilgo Beach, said he's been upset with the media coverage referring to the "Gilgo Beach killer."

"Not one single body was found here. They were either found to the east or the west," he said. "It's sort of disheartening living in Gilgo and hearing people almost denigrate the town when in fact nothing has happened here." Some of the bodies were found between Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach.

He's glad the police "stuck with" the investigation and said if Heuermann is the one who committed the murders, he hopes he "goes to jail forever."

The streets outside Heuermann's architecture practice in midtown Manhattan on Sunday were cleared of the police, crime scene unit and county vehicles that had been parked, and sometimes double parked, along Fifth Avenue and East 36th Street earlier in the weekend, when investigators had been going in and out of the building with boxes of evidence.

But activity continued outside Heuermann's red-paneled Massapequa Park home where law enforcement personnel from Nassau County, Suffolk County and State Police, some wearing protective gear and face masks, removed furniture including wooden drawers, and what appeared to be a TV stand and piece of fencing.

Just a few days ago, the corner of Michigan Avenue and First Avenue was unremarkable and quiet, said Bob Musto, a neighbor of Heuermann and a 40-year resident. Now, the corner was filled with people craning their necks and snapping pictures on their phone, eager to catch a glimpse of police working a serial killer case.

Unlike others in the close-knit community, Heuermann never exchanged a wave or hello with neighbors, said Musto.

"I wouldn't know them if they walked across my lawn," Musto said while sitting on his front porch steps watching the investigation. "It's weird living so close to somebody and not knowing them."

Karen Witzgall, 52, said she had mixed feelings upon discovering the person charged with murders that have haunted Long Island for years lived just a few blocks away.

"My first reaction was relief to know the person was finally in custody," she said while on a walk around the neighborhood. "When I see the scene, it makes me think of my children and wondering if they've ever had an encounter with him."

She doesn’t believe Heuermann’s arrest will change the friendly atmosphere.

"This is still a great neighborhood," she said.

From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book. Credit: Newsday Staff

Elisa DiStefano kick-starts summer with the Fun Book show From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book.

From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book. Credit: Newsday Staff

Elisa DiStefano kick-starts summer with the Fun Book show From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book.

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