Gilgo Beach killings suspect Rex Heuermann is walked out of the...

Gilgo Beach killings suspect Rex Heuermann is walked out of the Suffolk County 7th Precinct in Shirley on Friday. Credit: John Roca

Suffolk County Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Carter was on an afternoon run near his home in West Islip last Thursday afternoon when he got a call from his boss, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison.

It was a message Carter said he knew was coming at some point in the Gilgo Beach serial killer investigation.

“It is happening,” Carter said Harrison told him.

That terse message meant that a suspect in the infamous longtime mystery case was about to be arrested.

So the 49-year-old Carter, who in February 2022 — at Harrison' direction — had helped set up the multiagency task force to solve the case, turned around and ran back home. 

“I think I sprinted two miles,” Carter said in an interview with Newsday over the weekend.

After showering and donning a suit, Carter said he drove to the Hauppauge office of Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney — which was serving that day as a temporary war room — where Harrison and other members of the task force, including the FBI and New York State police, nervously spent tense hours waiting for suspect Rex A. Heuermann of Massapequa Park to be taken into custody.

"Most of us were standing, I don't remember anyone sitting down," Carter said.

Months of investigation by the task force, using advanced DNA technology, extensive cellphone tracking and FBI data crunching had come to focus on Heuermann, 59, as the suspect police believed had carried out three Gilgo killings and was a prime suspect in a fourth. He was charged with six counts of murder on Friday and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.

Married with children, Heuermann works as an architect with an office in Manhattan and that's where investigators chose to take him in, Carter said.

Authorities knew Heuermann had permits for 97 firearms, Carter said, but investigators didn’t know how he might react — if he might be armed.

But once confronted by the arrest team on a Manhattan street on Thursday evening, Heuermann offered no resistance and accompanied officers for the ride back to Suffolk.

"We waited … with small talk. Then, the word came, 'In custody,'" Carter said.

With those words, Harrison, Tierney and the others in the room let out a collective sigh of relief.

There was no celebration, Carter said.

The secrecy surrounding Heuermann’s arrest — even Carter had no advance warning — was necessary he said because the suspect had been monitoring Gilgo developments through internet searches and news accounts. A leak of an imminent arrest could lead to the suspect taking flight, investigators feared.

The arrest of Heuermann, who has pleaded not guilty to a total of six murder charges, was seen as a vindication of the task force effort, Carter said.

Both Harrison and Tierney supported the task force concept and, Carter said, Harrison directed him to pull together the group when he took office as commissioner in 2022.

Both Harrison, who had been chief of department of the NYPD as well as its chief of detectives, and Carter, who rose to the rank of inspector, worked together in the city. Harrison all but put his reputation on the line when he seemed to promise to solve the case.

“I am feeling confident we are closer to making an arrest,” Harrison said in early 2022 in a television interview.

Carter said Harrison wanted all the law enforcement agencies to come together in one place — a large war room at the police academy in Brentwood — to combine efforts and crack a case which in nearly 13 years had gone unsolved.

Carter said he was asked by Harrison to help pull together a multiagency team as a way of focusing resources and exploiting new technology to give a fresh look to the investigation. Prior to Harrison taking over as commissioner, the Gilgo investigation didn’t have dedicated office space or personnel assigned to the investigation from other agencies, Carter said.

“The goal wasn’t to move the case forward, it was to solve it,” stressed Carter.

Tierney, who took office around the same time as Harrison, also said he promised to do a new kind of investigation employing a task force approach to use the power of a grand jury. By Feb. 1, 2022, the task force was officially launched.

“It was a team effort,” recalled Carter. ”When we told the people our goal was to solve the case, there was excitement in the room.”

There was some initial resistance to the task force idea of a combined effort, but it was overcome, especially with Tierney on board, Carter said. 

In terms of the Suffolk police, Carter said he suggested that Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, commander of the homicide squad, be in charge.

Beyrer had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Gilgo investigation and didn’t even have to use notes when questioned for about an hour by Harrison, recalled Carter.

“This is my man,” Harrison finally said about Beyrer, remembered Carter.

The task force got off to a fast start, Tierney said last week at a news conference announcing Heuermann’s arrest.

On March 14, 2022, an investigator with the New York State Police, using a special vehicle database, determined that a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche which showed up at the home of Gilgo victim Amber Costello in early September 2010 was linked to Heuermann.

With Heuermann as a subject of interest, the task force focused on him, tying important cellphone activity to his various burners and personal devices. The phones served as a tracking device which tied Heuermann’s movements to key dates and times linked to the disappearance of his alleged victims, Tierney said.

The sophisticated DNA analysis of human hairs found at the various crime scene also linked Heuermann to the victims, according to Tierney. 

“DNA was a game changer,” Carter said.

Searches of Heuermann’s office and home will keep investigators busy for a while as they look for additional evidence to buttress the case, Carter said.

Carter said he believes that the break in the Gilgo case proved the value of cooperation among police and prosecutors. Harrison agreed.

“The blueprint for making this arrest was a whole team effort,” Harrison acknowledged at last week’s news conference. “Everybody left their egos at the door.”

             

Suffolk County Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Carter was on an afternoon run near his home in West Islip last Thursday afternoon when he got a call from his boss, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison.

It was a message Carter said he knew was coming at some point in the Gilgo Beach serial killer investigation.

“It is happening,” Carter said Harrison told him.

That terse message meant that a suspect in the infamous longtime mystery case was about to be arrested.

So the 49-year-old Carter, who in February 2022 — at Harrison' direction — had helped set up the multiagency task force to solve the case, turned around and ran back home. 

“I think I sprinted two miles,” Carter said in an interview with Newsday over the weekend.

Inside the Gilgo task force 'war room'

After showering and donning a suit, Carter said he drove to the Hauppauge office of Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney — which was serving that day as a temporary war room — where Harrison and other members of the task force, including the FBI and New York State police, nervously spent tense hours waiting for suspect Rex A. Heuermann of Massapequa Park to be taken into custody.

Suffolk County Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Carter. Credit: Courtesy of Suffolk County Police Dept.

"Most of us were standing, I don't remember anyone sitting down," Carter said.

Months of investigation by the task force, using advanced DNA technology, extensive cellphone tracking and FBI data crunching had come to focus on Heuermann, 59, as the suspect police believed had carried out three Gilgo killings and was a prime suspect in a fourth. He was charged with six counts of murder on Friday and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.

Married with children, Heuermann works as an architect with an office in Manhattan and that's where investigators chose to take him in, Carter said.

Authorities knew Heuermann had permits for 97 firearms, Carter said, but investigators didn’t know how he might react — if he might be armed.

Suspected Gilgo killer 'in custody'

But once confronted by the arrest team on a Manhattan street on Thursday evening, Heuermann offered no resistance and accompanied officers for the ride back to Suffolk.

"We waited … with small talk. Then, the word came, 'In custody,'" Carter said.

With those words, Harrison, Tierney and the others in the room let out a collective sigh of relief.

There was no celebration, Carter said.

The secrecy surrounding Heuermann’s arrest — even Carter had no advance warning — was necessary he said because the suspect had been monitoring Gilgo developments through internet searches and news accounts. A leak of an imminent arrest could lead to the suspect taking flight, investigators feared.

The arrest of Heuermann, who has pleaded not guilty to a total of six murder charges, was seen as a vindication of the task force effort, Carter said.

Both Harrison and Tierney supported the task force concept and, Carter said, Harrison directed him to pull together the group when he took office as commissioner in 2022.

Both Harrison, who had been chief of department of the NYPD as well as its chief of detectives, and Carter, who rose to the rank of inspector, worked together in the city. Harrison all but put his reputation on the line when he seemed to promise to solve the case.

“I am feeling confident we are closer to making an arrest,” Harrison said in early 2022 in a television interview.

Task force worked out of police academy

Carter said Harrison wanted all the law enforcement agencies to come together in one place — a large war room at the police academy in Brentwood — to combine efforts and crack a case which in nearly 13 years had gone unsolved.

Carter said he was asked by Harrison to help pull together a multiagency team as a way of focusing resources and exploiting new technology to give a fresh look to the investigation. Prior to Harrison taking over as commissioner, the Gilgo investigation didn’t have dedicated office space or personnel assigned to the investigation from other agencies, Carter said.

“The goal wasn’t to move the case forward, it was to solve it,” stressed Carter.

Tierney, who took office around the same time as Harrison, also said he promised to do a new kind of investigation employing a task force approach to use the power of a grand jury. By Feb. 1, 2022, the task force was officially launched.

“It was a team effort,” recalled Carter. ”When we told the people our goal was to solve the case, there was excitement in the room.”

There was some initial resistance to the task force idea of a combined effort, but it was overcome, especially with Tierney on board, Carter said. 

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison, left, and Suffolk County...

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison, left, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, speaks to the media about the arrest of a suspect in connection with the Gilgo Beach killings at a news conference in Massapequa Park on Friday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

In terms of the Suffolk police, Carter said he suggested that Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, commander of the homicide squad, be in charge.

Beyrer had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Gilgo investigation and didn’t even have to use notes when questioned for about an hour by Harrison, recalled Carter.

“This is my man,” Harrison finally said about Beyrer, remembered Carter.

Investigators focused on team work

The task force got off to a fast start, Tierney said last week at a news conference announcing Heuermann’s arrest.

On March 14, 2022, an investigator with the New York State Police, using a special vehicle database, determined that a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche which showed up at the home of Gilgo victim Amber Costello in early September 2010 was linked to Heuermann.

With Heuermann as a subject of interest, the task force focused on him, tying important cellphone activity to his various burners and personal devices. The phones served as a tracking device which tied Heuermann’s movements to key dates and times linked to the disappearance of his alleged victims, Tierney said.

The sophisticated DNA analysis of human hairs found at the various crime scene also linked Heuermann to the victims, according to Tierney. 

“DNA was a game changer,” Carter said.

Searches of Heuermann’s office and home will keep investigators busy for a while as they look for additional evidence to buttress the case, Carter said.

Suffolk County Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Carter.

Suffolk County Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Carter. Credit: NYPD

Carter said he believes that the break in the Gilgo case proved the value of cooperation among police and prosecutors. Harrison agreed.

“The blueprint for making this arrest was a whole team effort,” Harrison acknowledged at last week’s news conference. “Everybody left their egos at the door.”

             

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