Massapequa architect identified as suspect in Gilgo Beach serial killings


Police have a suspect in custody in connection with buried remains discovered at Gilgo Beach over a decade ago, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Friday.

[Update: Prosecutors: Gilgo Beach suspect taunted victim’s sister over cell phone]

The suspect was taken into custody in Massapequa Park late Thursday. The source was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

News 12 cited “multiple sources” while first confirming news of an arrest around 6 a.m. Friday.

Later, the New York Post confirmed from a source that the detained suspect is 59-year-old Rex Heuermann, a married New York City architect from Massapequa Park, which the AP has also since confirmed. Since before dawn on Friday, state and local police agencies were outside the man’s nondescript, single-story red house for the continued investigation.

According to the Post, a DNA match relating to the case led to the arrest.

Heuermann was scheduled to be arraigned Friday in state court in Riverhead. A message seeking comment was left with his lawyer. Voice and email messages were left at Heuermann’s Manhattan office and at possible numbers for his home and family Friday.

“This is a day that is a long time in coming, and hopefully a day that will bring peace to this community and to the families — peace that has been long overdue,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said during an unrelated public appearance on Long Island.

The news of an arrest came as a shock to some of the relatives after so many years waiting for a break in the case. In a text message, a sister of one victim said her family wasn’t ready to speak publicly because they “really haven’t had a chance to process the news today.”

Actor and Massapequa native Billy Baldwin took to Twitter after reading the reports, saying he went to high school with Heuermann, and that he was an “average guy … quiet, family man.”

Additional details are expected to be outlined at a 4 p.m. press conference Friday at Suffolk police headquarters in Yaphank, where Suffolk District Attorney Raymond Tierney, Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison and investigators will announce and discuss what officials described as “a significant development in the investigation by the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation Task Force.”

Map locates human remains found near Gilgo Beach in 2010 and 2011. Source: Associated Press (April 2011)

Neighbors in Massapequa Park expressed shock and bewilderment to News 12 reporters early Friday as investigators surrounded the First Avenue home near Michigan Avenue.

In the meantime, as of 12:52 p.m., traffic was being diverted away from Gilgo Beach on Ocean Parkway near where the bodies were discovered, according to a Greater Long Island reader video:

There have been at least 11 confirmed victims during the serial killer investigation, with the first four bodies being discovered in December of 2010 and more remains later unearthed.

Most of the victims were young women who had been sex workers.

The case has drawn immense public attention beyond Long Island. The mystery attracted national headlines for many years and the unsolved killings were the subject of the 2020 Netflix film “Lost Girls.”

Determining who killed them, and why, had vexed a slew of seasoned homicide detectives through several changes in leadership in the Suffolk County Police Department. Last year, an interagency task force was formed with investigators from the FBI, as well as state and local police departments, aimed at solving the case.

The formation of the Gilgo Beach task force represented a renewed commitment to investigating the unsolved killings, Harrison had said.

The disappearance of Shannan Gilbert in 2010 is what triggered the hunt that exposed the larger mystery. Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker, vanished after leaving a client’s house on foot in Oak Beach, disappearing into the marsh.

Months later, in December of that year, a police officer and his cadaver dog were looking for her body in the thicket along nearby Ocean Parkway when they happened upon the remains of a different woman. Within days, three other bodies were found, all within a short walk of one another.

By spring 2011, that number had climbed to 11 sets of human remains — those of eight women, one man and one toddler. Some were later linked to dismembered body parts found elsewhere on Long Island, making for a puzzling crime scene that stretched to western Nassau County to the East End and Fire Island.

In talking about the bodies near Gilgo Beach, investigators have said several times over the years it is unlikely one person killed all the victims.

News of a suspect being taken into custody comes a day after state police responded to a report of skeletal remains found in a wooded area off the Southern State Parkway in Islip. Police planned a briefing near the site on Friday afternoon. It wasn’t immediately clear if those remains were linked to the Gilgo Beach case.

Top: Police officers arrive to the house where a suspect has been taken into custody in Massapequa Park in connection with a long-unsolved string of killings, known as the Gilgo Beach murders, Friday, July 14, 2023, in Massapequa Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Prior coverage: