Rex Heuermann Faces Fourth Murder Charge in Gilgo Beach Serial Killings


When Rex Heuermann was arrested and charged in July as the Gilgo Beach serial killer, prosecutors outlined a narrative against him that his defense lawyer, Michael Brown, attacked as cherry-picked and DNA evidence that Mr. Brown derided as shaky.

Mr. Heuermann, 60, had been charged with murdering three of the so-called Gilgo Four, a quartet of women who in 2010 were found bound with burlap, belts and tape on the Long Island oceanfront.

Prosecutors said they were awaiting the DNA testing they needed to charge him in the killing of the fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn.

But when those charges finally came on Tuesday, just over six months later, prosecutors used the occasion to deliver their version of a knockout punch in the case.

In addition to charging Mr. Heuermann with second-degree murder in court, they filed an extensive outline of an updated, ratcheted-up case that seemed to stun the normally agile Mr. Brown.

After the hearing, he deflected questions regarding the new evidence, saying that it had only just been divulged to him. He said that his client had “maintained his innocence from Day One” and that he was “looking forward to fighting these charges.”

That fight may have just gotten more difficult. Previously, Mr. Brown had cited weaknesses in the mitochondrial DNA testing method used by investigators to connect stray hairs found on the victims with Mr. Heuermann and his family.

But in court papers filed on Tuesday, prosecutors included details of additional DNA testing that had been conducted, and that establishes the matches with much more certainty than mitochondrial DNA testing.

Mr. Heuermann, who pleaded not guilty to killing Ms. Brainard-Barnes, as he has to all previous charges, was marched into a Suffolk County courtroom Tuesday morning with his hands shackled behind his back. He remained silent and maintained a calm demeanor as the district attorney, Ray Tierney, asked the judge to keep him remanded without bail.

When Mr. Heuermann was arrested, prosecutors said that the DNA evidence connecting him to the murders included several hairs belonging to his wife, Asa Ellerup, that were found with the women’s remains.

They also cited a male hair that corresponded to a genetic sample taken from pizza crusts Mr. Heuermann discarded outside his office in Midtown Manhattan.

But after the hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Tierney told reporters that nuclear DNA testing had also been done on the hairs, and that it had obtained far more conclusive results than the mitochondrial DNA testing.

Mr. Brown had said that the mitochondrial DNA testing was insufficient because it could not positively identify Mr. Heuermann as a match. Rather, it excluded as possible matches everyone but a sliver of the population that he fell into.

At earlier hearings, Mr. Brown had argued that this left Mr. Heuermann in a group of “thousands and thousands” of possible suspects, even when considering only the local population.

Asked after the Tuesday hearing about the newly released and more damning genetic results, Mr. Brown reacted incredulously. “This morning was the first time — and this is 13-plus years — that, miraculously, nuclear DNA testing and results have come forward,” he said.

At the news conference, Mr. Tierney briefly explained how the withered strands of hair found more than a decade ago had become crucial evidence in the case, describing the nuclear DNA testing as “cutting edge” forensic technology.

“Nuclear DNA existed in the hairs since they were discovered, and now the science has caught up,” he said. “I would say that’s a good break for justice.”

Mr. Heuermann was first identified as a suspect in the killings in early 2022, when investigators followed up on a decade-old tip regarding his distinctive pickup truck.

Prosecutors say he made calls and sent texts to Ms. Brainard-Barnes just before she disappeared in 2007, becoming the first of the so-called Gilgo Four to vanish.

The long awaited DNA tests of a stray hair found with her remains showed that it had belonged to Ms. Ellerup, prosecutors say, and was most likely tracked to the crime scene by Mr. Heuermann.

The hair was found with one of the three belts used to bind Ms. Brainard-Barnes’s remains. Another belt had a distinctive buckle bearing the initials W.H., which the authorities said in 2020 could have belonged to Mr. Heuermann’s father.

Prosecutors say that Ms. Ellerup, who has not been charged in the killings, was out of town during the disappearances of the women, whom they say Mr. Heuermann hired as escorts and then killed.

Ms. Ellerup attended her husband’s hearing on Tuesday along with their daughter, Victoria Heuermann. Neither spoke to reporters, but afterward they stood alongside Ms. Ellerup’s lawyer, Bob Macedonio, as he told reporters that the new details in the case only reinforced that Ms. Ellerup had nothing to do with any of it.

The filing on Tuesday also outlined new evidence recovered from Mr. Heuermann’s home in Massapequa Park during a two-week search after his arrest.

Numerous electronic devices were recovered that Mr. Heuermann had used to search online for his victims and their relatives, as well as to follow the status of the murder investigations, the court papers said.

The devices also held his collection of bondage, torture and other violent pornography, and showed signs that Mr. Heuermann had used software to help erase some of his online activity, including records of his making appointments with escorts, the filing said.

Additionally, a pair of cellphones that investigators recovered upon his arrest were found to have made “hundreds of contacts with sex workers between 2020 and 2023,” according to the filing.

Maureen Brainard-BarnesCredit…Suffolk County Police Department, via Associated Press

On Tuesday, Mr. Tierney said that, with the investigation into the Gilgo Four complete, his task force and the grand jury would turn their focus to the six other sets of remains that were found in the same area after the women were discovered.

In a surprise appearance on Tuesday, the prominent lawyer Gloria Allred spoke after Mr. Tierney at the post-hearing news conference.

Ms. Allred, who is known for taking high-profile cases relating to women’s rights, told reporters she was now representing the family members of numerous victims in the case, and she introduced Melissa Cann, Ms. Brainard Barnes’s sister.

Ms. Cann and Nicolette Brainard-Barnes, the victim’s daughter, spoke to reporters after the hearing and described her as a loving mother and talented writer whose memory had been tarnished by her being known primarily as a sex worker.

Ms. Cann said the names of each of the Gilgo Four and emphasized what she hoped people would take away from the case.

“Remember the victims,” she said.



This article was originally published by a www.nytimes.com . Read the Original article here. .