Suffolk police and crime lab investigators examine the 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche that...

Suffolk police and crime lab investigators examine the 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche that once belonged to alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex A. Heurmann at the Suffolk County Crime Lab in Hauppauge on Friday. Credit: James Carbone

This story was reported by John Asbury, Anthony M. DeStefano and Michael O'Keeffe. It was written by O'Keeffe.

Police hunted for clues in a Chevrolet Avalanche once owned by suspected Gilgo Beach killer Rex A. Heuermann on Friday as investigators continued their weeklong search of the defendant’s Massapequa Park home for evidence linking him to the deaths of three women whose remains were found alongside Ocean Parkway in 2010.

Meanwhile, Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney said the next big challenge facing prosecutors is moving the mountains of evidence generated during the 13-year investigation to Heuermann’s attorney to comply with the state's new discovery laws.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Tierney acknowledged Friday. 

More than a dozen investigators meticulously searched the Avalanche, a critical piece of evidence that helped lead to Heuermann’s arrest, at the Suffolk Crime Lab in Hauppauge. The Avalanche is significant because, according to court documents, a witness said a vehicle matching its description was parked at the West Babylon home of Gilgo Beach victim Amber Lynn Costello on Sept. 1, 2010, the last day she was seen alive. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Police hunted for clues in a Chevrolet Avalanche once owned by suspected Gilgo Beach killer Rex A. Heuermann on Friday at the crime lab in Hauppauge.
  • Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney said prosecutors were also busy preparing to move mountains of evidence generated during the 13-year investigation to Heuermann’s attorney to comply with the state's new discovery laws.
  • Investigators continued the search at Heuermann’s First Avenue home in Massapequa Park, which has been surrounded by yellow crime scene tape, TV cameras, law enforcement and curious bystanders for the past week. On Friday, a police German shepherd was also at the scene.

A New York State police investigator assigned to the Gilgo Beach Task Force, using a database that can search for vehicles by make and model, discovered in March 2022 that Heuermann owned an Avalanche in 2010. Heuermann also lived and worked in areas where burner phones were used to contact victims, the court papers said. 

The Avalanche, seized by the FBI at Heuermann’s brother’s home in South Carolina, was transported to Long Island this week by a New York State Police tow truck. 

Heuermann, 59, was arraigned on July 14 and pleaded 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 near Gilgo Beach.

Investigators also continued on Friday the search at Heuermann’s First Avenue home in Massapequa Park, which has been surrounded by yellow crime scene tape, TV cameras, law enforcement and curious bystanders for the past week. 

The parade of evidence from the ramshackle home to police trucks in the otherwise tidy neighborhood appeared to slow on Friday, but detectives and crime-scene personnel in white clean suits and green scrubs continued to enter and exit the house throughout the day. 

Police gave no indication of when the search would end and seemed poised to continue to search the home through the weekend. Investigators have removed a large number of items from the house, including furniture, rugs, a cat scratching post and more than 200 firearms. A state police German shepherd was at the scene Friday.

Also on Friday, Tierney said prosecutors are working to comply with a state discovery law that gives them 20 days after arraignment to turn over evidence to defense attorneys whose clients, like Heuermann, are in custody. The law, which went into effect in 2020, allows the deadline to be extended to 30 days in cases with voluminous materials. It also allows prosecutors to ask courts for additional time with good cause. 

The 13-year-old investigation has generated so much paperwork that defense attorney Michael Brown would need an 18-wheel tractor-trailer just to haul it to his Central Islip office, Tierney quipped on Friday. Prosecutors will likely use computer cloud technology to share the documents with the defense. Brown did not return requests for comment. 

“If there was any case where the court should grant more time it is this, where it involves [more than] 10 years and numerous agencies investigating,” said retired New York City Criminal Court Judge Barry Kamins, who is now in private practice in Brooklyn and has written articles about the new discovery environment facing the courts.

One former New York City prosecutor said that records of anonymous tips or telephone calls made to police over the years on Gilgo will have to be turned over as well since they may indicate other persons who could have been considered as suspects. 

A representative for Tierney said the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office recently received $3.6 million in state grants to help deal with the crush of discovery materials over all cases. The money has been spent on the hiring of 20 so-called discovery “expediters” whose job is to collect, store and pass along relevant documents to defense attorneys.

“It is the hottest topic in decisions because each judge has to consider motions about whether prosecutors have complied with discovery laws,” Kamins said. 

By Friday, some of Heuermann’s neighbors seemed to be growing weary of the constant presence of police and media in their midst. A smattering of gawkers from Long Island and even as far as New Jersey came to catch a glimpse of the crime scene. 

Troy Weeks, 23, said he answered a Facebook ad posted by Heuermann four years ago seeking somebody to cut his grass.

"He seemed like an odd guy. I’m in disbelief, it’s crazy to me. I had this gut feeling I knew something was up," Weeks said. "The house was not taken care of and overgrown."

With James Carbone

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