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Architect held in Long Island serial killer case

By Madeline Halpert in New York and Bernd Debusmann Jr

Law enforcement officials are seen as they investigate the home of a suspect arrested in the unsolved Gilgo Beach killings on July 14, 2023 in Massapequa Park, New York. A suspect in the Gilgo Beach killings was arrested in the unsolved case tied to at least 10 sets of human remains that were discovered since 2010 in suburban Long Island. The suspect Rex Heuermann is expected to be arraigned after his arrest Thursday night.
Law enforcement officials investigate Rex Heuermann's home in Massapequa Park, New York, in relation to six unsolved murders. Photo: Getty via AFP

An architect has been charged in connection with a series of long-unsolved murders in New York state.

Long Island resident Rex Heuermann faces six counts of murder in the deaths of three of four women whose remains were found in 2010.

On Friday he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Police said Heuermann, 59, was arrested at his home on Thursday night. Eleven victims have been found in the inquiry into the Gilgo Beach murders.

On Friday, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison described Heuermann as a "demon that walks among us" and a "predator that has ruined families".

Court documents show that Heuermann is facing three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello.

After a plea was entered on his behalf, Heuermann reportedly broke down in tears in court, telling his attorney: "I didn't do this."

All three women were found dead in 2010 near a fourth victim, Maureen Brainard-Barnes. The women have been dubbed the Gilgo Beach Four. All four were sex workers, according to prosecutors.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, US District Attorney Ray Tierney said that "each of the four victims were found similarly positioned, bound in a similar fashion by either belts or tape, with three of the victims found wrapped in a burlap-type material".

Tierney said that the case against Heuermann was based on mobile phone records linking him to the victims, as well as to a pick-up truck that was seen near one of the victim's homes. He allegedly communicated with the victims using "burner" phones, which he later disposed of. Mobile phone records also allowed investigators to determine that the deaths took place when Heuermann's wife and children were out of town.

Hair found on a piece of burlap used to wrap one of the victims was linked to Heuermann via a sample from a pizza box he discarded in a rubbish bin in Manhattan in January 2023.

Barthelemy was abducted in 2009. Waterman and Costello both went missing in 2010.

Heuermann is also a prime suspect in the death of Brainard-Barnes, who was abducted in 2007, although he has so far not been charged.

In 2010, police were searching for one missing woman when they found the remains of four others.

The investigation remained open and a new task force to investigate the murders was formed in February 2022. Heuermann was the focus of the investigation within a month, Tierney said. More than 300 subpoenas and search warrants were carried out by investigators working on the case.

Since the task force was formed, Heuermann allegedly also used a burner phone to conduct more than 200 searches about topics related to serial killers and the Long Island investigation.

This included a search for "why hasn't the Long Island serial killer been caught" and "mapping the Long Island murder victims", court documents show.

Tierney added that "torture porn" and "depictions of women being abused and being killed" were found on Heuermann's computer.

The investigation into the other victims is ongoing.

Heuermann is the owner of RH Consultants and Associates, a Manhattan architecture firm that describes itself as "New York City's premier architectural firm".

In a YouTube interview for a realty-focused channel last year, he said he had been working in the heart of New York City since 1987, describing himself as a "trouble shooter".

People who lived near his home in Long Island's Massapequa Park expressed surprise at his arrest.

"The guy's been quiet, never really bothers anybody," neighbour Etienne DeVilliers told CBS, the BBC's US partner.

"We're shocked. Because this is a very, very quiet neighbourhood. Everybody knows each other, all of our neighbours, we're all friendly. It's never been a problem at all."

- This story was first published by BBC