Architect identified as suspect in Long Island serial killings, AP source says

‘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,’ said New York Governor Kathy Hochul

Suspect has been taken into custody on New York's Long Island, July 14, 2023
Crime laboratory officers arrive at the house where a suspect has been taken into custody on New York's Long Island in connection with a long-unsolved string of killings.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez (AP)

A man arrested in connection with a long-unsolved string of killings on Long Island known as the Gilgo Beach murders has been identified as an architect who has been living for decades across a bay from where the remains of 11 people were found.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Rex Heuermann, 59, was taken into custody in Massapequa late Thursday, near where investigators were seen Friday searching his home. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation and did so on condition of anonymity.

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.

Heuermann lives in Massapequa Park, a community just north of South Oyster Bay and the sandy stretch known as Gilgo Beach where skeletal remains were found along a remote oceanfront highway in 2010 and 2011. The deaths have long stumped investigators. Most of the victims were young women who had been sex workers.

The case has drawn immense public attention. 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, has vexed a slew of seasoned homicide detectives through several changes in police leadership. 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.

Law enforcement personnel converged on the small red house that had been raided early Friday in the suburb about 40 miles (64 km) east of midtown Manhattan. Dozens of residents mingled alongside police and media, watching as a half-dozen investigators in protective suits conferred outside the front porch, which was in disrepair, its roof propped up by 2-by-4s.

The home belonged to a family that had long kept to themselves, neighbors said, noting that the dilapidated property seemed out of place among rows of single family homes and well kept lawns in the small community.

“This house sticks out like a sore thumb. There were overgrown shrubs, there was always wood in front of the house,” said Gabriella Libardi, a 24-year-old teacher. “It was very creepy. I wouldn’t send my child there.”

Barry Auslander, another neighbor, said the man who lived in the house commuted by train to New York City each morning, wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase.

“It was weird. He looked like a businessman,” said Auslander. “But his house is a dump.”

Heuermann, married with two children, is a licensed architect with a small Manhattan-based firm that, according to its website, has done store buildouts and other renovations for major retailers, offices and apartments.

Last year, law enforcement agencies on Long Island formed a Gilgo Beach task force, showing what Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said was a renewed commitment to solving the killings.

“We’re happy to see that they’re finally active, the police, in accomplishing something. Let’s wait and see what it all leads to,” said John Ray, the attorney for the families of two victims, Shannan Gilbert and Jessica Taylor.

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

Months later, 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 10 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 from a park near the New York City limits to a resort community on Fire Island and out to far eastern Long Island.

Gilbert’s body was found in December 2011, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) east of where the other 10 sets were discovered.

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

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