Lengthy Island Serial Killer arrest: Is Rex Heuermann LISK?


He murdered at the very least 4 folks, doubtless 10, and probably extra. His victims, which included an unidentified toddler and her mom, had been left discarded like trash alongside a brief stretch of seaside freeway. Over the past decade, his specter turned a popular culture boogeyman.

And now, authorities might have lastly caught LISK: the Lengthy Island serial killer.

On Friday morning, police on Lengthy Island swarmed tiny Oak Seashore, a neighborhood that lies on the far finish of Jones Seashore Island, the lengthy, slim strip of land the place all of LISK’s assumed victims had been recovered between 2010 and 2011. There, they took 59-year-old Rex Heuermann, an architect and constructing guide, into custody.

In accordance with the New York Submit, authorities first recognized Heuermann as a possible particular person of curiosity over a 12 months in the past as a result of a DNA match. Proof has related him with the primary group of LISK’s confirmed victims, often called “the Gilgo 4.” These had been the primary 4 victims, who had been all found in December 2010 across the Gilgo Seashore stretch of the island.

Heuermann was subsequently charged with the murders of three of the unique 4 recovered victims — Melissa Barthelemy, Amber Lynn Costello, and Megan Waterman. He was arraigned in court docket Friday, the place he entered a plea of not responsible. Proof linking him to the crimes in accordance with court docket paperwork embrace telephone data, web searches, and DNA.

The information of Heuermann’s arrest despatched social media right into a frenzy, because the true crime group celebrated an enormous win for an investigation many individuals doubted would ever be closed. That’s as a result of the LISK case, additionally known as the Gilgo Seashore murders or the Lengthy Island Ripper case, is without doubt one of the most intricate, complicated, and irritating serial killer instances in current reminiscence.

The explanations for this are advanced, however they’re additionally very acquainted. Like many serial killers, LISK focused intercourse employees, doubtless as a result of myriad elements that may result in intercourse employees being marginalized and lacking, typically going unreported and unidentified. Authorities generally fail to take the disappearances of intercourse employees severely, which might hinder investigations. On this case, a jaw-dropping stage of alleged corruption and misconduct from the previous Suffolk County Police chief additional jeopardized all the investigation. Then we now have the killer himself, whose MO might have modified over time, resulting in questions on what number of murders he dedicated or whether or not he was working with a accomplice.

As developments unfold, there are many new and unresolved questions on this case. The largest is one which has haunted the case since its inception: Are all LISK’s victims the work of 1 serial killer, or are there a number of perpetrators stalking the wilds of Lengthy Island?

Right here’s what to know in regards to the murders that turned an eerie shadow for a era of New Yorkers, and what we all know up to now in regards to the man who might have dedicated them.

The LISK case was lengthy and irritating — and really scary

The LISK case burst into the general public’s consciousness due to Shannan Gilbert, a 23-year-old aspiring singer who vanished on Could 1, 2010. Previous to her loss of life, Gilbert made a 23-minute 911 name through which she wandered, confused and disoriented, across the Oak Seashore neighborhood the place she’d had an earlier escort appointment, frantically begging for assist and claiming to be at risk. Gilbert’s physique was ultimately found in December 2011, within the marshes close to Oak Seashore. 13 years later, the nature of Gilbert’s loss of life stays a topic of controversy. Her unsolved case has lengthy been thought of by authorities to be unrelated to LISK, however we now know she went lacking very close to Heuermann’s residence in Oak Seashore, a reality that might shed new gentle on her case.

In December 2010, the investigation into Gilbert’s loss of life uncovered 4 our bodies, subsequently dubbed “the Gilgo 4.” All had been found over a two-day interval, all discarded close to one another alongside desolate Ocean Parkway, a two-lane street that spans the size of Jones Seashore Island, a protracted strip of land that types a part of Lengthy Island’s South Shore.

First was the physique of Melissa Barthelemy, found on December 11, 2010. Barthelemy, a 24-year-old cosmetologist, had first gone lacking in July 2009. The next investigation into Barthelemy’s loss of life shortly positioned three extra our bodies. The second positioned sufferer was Amber Lynn Costello, 27, who had gone lacking in September 2010. Subsequent police positioned 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes, a single mother who’d gone lacking in 2007. Lastly, Megan Waterman, 22, a single mother who had gone lacking in June 2010. All 4 of the victims had been intercourse employees of comparable age, peak, and look; all 4 of their our bodies had been discovered entire, three wrapped in burlap.

Over the subsequent 5 months, the partial stays of six different victims, all disposed of alongside Ocean Parkway, had been found. As a result of these our bodies had been dismembered and their stays scattered in varied places, there may be some debate about whether or not they’re associated to the Gilgo 4.

In July 2003, the fifth sufferer to be found, considered related to the others, 20-year-old Jessica Taylor, additionally went lacking from New York Metropolis; her partial stays had been present in Manorville, Lengthy Island, later that very same month. But it surely wasn’t till March 2011 that authorities recovered her cranium alongside the Gilgo Seashore freeway.

The sixth sufferer to be found, in April 2011, was an Asian trans girl in her late teenagers or early 20s. Early media experiences and true crime blogs continuously misgendered her, although extra lately, she has been known as “Gilgo Seashore Doe” or “Ocean Parkway Doe.” She is believed to have been killed as much as 5 years earlier by a blow to the top. Little or no is understood about this sufferer; like many of the different LISK victims, she is believed to have been a intercourse employee.

A modified police reconstruction sketch, displaying what Gilgo Seashore Doe may need seemed like.
Suffolk County Police/Imgur

In April, the stays of an unidentified toddler, the seventh sufferer, had been discovered. Subsequently, the partial stays of an eighth sufferer, a Black girl often called “Peaches” due to a peach tattoo she had, had been present in Cedar Seashore off Ocean Parkway. Her preliminary set of stays had beforehand been positioned in Hempstead Lake State Park in 1997. This state park is about 45 minutes away from the place extra of her stays had been finally positioned in April 2011. “Peaches” was confirmed by means of DNA matching to be the mom of the unidentified toddler. Each mom and daughter are believed to be LISK victims. Authorities have lately traced Peaches’ doable roots to Alabama however haven’t but made an identification.

The ninth sufferer, 24-year-old Valerie Mack, went lacking in October 2000. In November 2000, her torso was present in Manorville, 40 minutes away from Gilgo Seashore. Identified for years as “Jane Doe no. 6,” Mack, who additionally glided by Melissa Taylor, was ultimately recognized in 2020 by way of forensic family tree. She had by no means been reported lacking.

The partial stays of the tenth LISK sufferer, often called “Fireplace Island Jane Doe,” had been first found in 1996 on Fireplace Island. Her cranium was found in April 2011, simply south of Gilgo in Tobay Seashore. She is believed to be LISK’s earliest identified sufferer.

A reconstruction of Fireplace Island Jane Doe.
Suffolk County Police/Uncovered

It’s simple to see simply from this listing how complicated and troubling these murders had been. The victims had been present in a comparatively brief time however had been murdered over a variety of greater than a decade. The thought {that a} serial killer had been working, undetected, for all of that point rattled the group of Lengthy Island in addition to true crime watchers across the globe.

As stress grew to catch the killer, Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, appointed in 2012, got here beneath hearth for refusing to work with the FBI. However Burke had larger issues: He was then making an attempt to cowl up his brutal beating of a suspect who stole a bag of intercourse toys from his automotive. His efforts to hinder the FBI’s investigation into the beating finally wound up implicating Burke, the county prosecutor, the deputy prosecutor, and a number of members of the Suffolk police pressure.

The case heats up — and turns into a real crime linchpin

All of this immediately impacted the LISK case, which languished for years because of Burke’s hostility towards the FBI and his ongoing authorized issues. However throughout this time, amid the burgeoning true crime increase of the 2010s, LISK was capturing the eye of the nation. A 2016 Netflix documentary collection, The Killing Season, drew widespread consideration to the case, as did quite a few podcasts and a guide, The Misplaced Ladies, which was subsequently tailored in 2020 right into a fictionalized Netflix drama.

The victims’ households weren’t at all times proud of this elevated publicity; in April 2023, a lawyer for 2 of the victims’ households objected to a LISK panel at an area true crime pageant.

In 2018, Burke was changed by, satirically, a longtime FBI agent. Geraldine Hart was the primary feminine police chief in Suffolk County’s historical past. She instantly resumed full-scale investigation into the LISK case, and in 2020 launched an eye catching piece of new proof: a belt discovered close to one of many crime scenes, believed to belong to the perpetrator. Inscribed upon the belt was what seemed to be an insignia:

Belt believed to belong to LISK.
Suffolk County Police / Gilgo Information

This insignia proved as mysterious as every thing else in regards to the case; net sleuths debated what the symbols meant. Have been they letters? Symbols? Nothing? As lately as a month in the past, one Redditor declared the belt was “in all probability a misdirection” and that makes an attempt to trace down a killer with the initials “HM” had been in all probability futile. They could have been partly proper; after Friday’s arrest, many have identified that “HM” may stand for “Heuermann.”

Hart’s alternative, police commissioner Rodney Harrison, additionally tackled the case with zeal. In a 2022 press convention, he described legislation enforcement’s “relentless pursuit to determine the people and convey them to justice.”

What we all know in regards to the suspect up to now

Rex Heuermann in a gray suit poses for a photo in front of a brick Manhattan building.

Rex Heuermann.
RH Structure

Married with two grownup youngsters, Heuermann is a lifelong Lengthy Island resident whose specialty as an architect appears to be coping with the New York Metropolis constructing code. In a 2022 YouTube interview, he spoke about figuring out the small print of metropolis codes and in contrast himself to a “hammer.” His structure agency, R.H. Structure, has since eliminated its workers itemizing, which additionally included an inventory for one among Heuermann’s kin. In accordance with the New York Occasions, Heuermann lived in his dilapidated household dwelling and his neighbors largely prevented him. One neighbor described him to the New York Submit as “an enormous talker,” including that it “is sensible that he’s a serial killer.”

Heuermann’s arrest comes lower than a day after authorities found a brand new set of skeletal stays within the Suffolk County city of Islip (about 20 minutes from Jones Seashore Island, the place many of the LISK victims’ stays had been discovered), however up to now no connection is understood.

On July 14, police went to Heuermann’s Oak Seashore neighborhood, the place they searched his residence. Authorities had been noticed eradicating a big cooler from Heuermann’s dwelling on Friday, although the importance of this discovery has not been made clear.

In accordance with his lawyer, Michael Brown, Heuermann was “in tears” after his arraignment on Friday, insisting that he “didn’t do that.” However whereas the case towards Heuermann appears to be circumstantial, it’s compelling. For starters, in accordance with court docket paperwork, Heuermann’s spouse was out of city each time every of the three victims Heuermann is charged with killing went lacking. Heuermann additionally had a protracted historical past of conducting web searches for excessive sexual kinks, in addition to an curiosity in serial killers and particularly LISK.

After which there’s the DNA: Authorities matched DNA discovered on the burlap materials used to wrap Waterman’s physique to a discarded pizza crust from Heuermann obtained by police in January 2023.

Nonetheless, this case is in no way open and shut. There might be extra prosecutions to observe, and extra inquiries to reply. One of many large ones: Are there extra victims? Among the many listing of different potential LISK victims are Tina Foglia, whose dismembered stays had been present in Gilgo Seashore in 1986; Judith Ramona Veloz, who went lacking from New York Metropolis in 1993; and Natasha Jugo, whose automotive was discovered deserted in Gilgo Seashore in 2013.

After Heuermann’s arrest, victims’ households expressed their due to police and their reduction {that a} killer may lastly have been caught. “The suspect deserves to rot in jail for the remainder of his life,” Gilbert’s sister Sherre Gilbert instructed NBC Information. “He destroyed many lives so whereas it received’t convey our family members again, it does assist that one much less monster is off the streets and he can’t ever damage anybody else!”

Among the many many grateful bystanders was New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who issued her personal assertion in regards to the arrest.

“I do know there’s a group on the market that, because the details unfold, might be sleeping loads simpler tonight,” Hochul stated.


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