The kind of painstaking police work used to nab a suspect in New York’s more than decade-old Gilgo Beach murders is the stuff of TV crime shows.
And a key was a Chevrolet Avalanche sitting in plain view.
Internal problems in Long Island law enforcement may have contributed to the delay in solving the case, according to Newsday, but upon taking office in 2022, Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney pledged to renew efforts to solve it.
Tedious, careful detective work eventually resulted in the recent arrest of 59-year-old Rex A. Heuermann of Massapequa Park, New York, charged with the murders between 2007 and 2010 of three women.
Heuermann, a Manhattan architect, is married and the father of two; FBI profilers initially had pegged their suspect as a middle-aged, married, white man.
He’s been charged with the murders of Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of West Babylon, New York; Melissa Barthelemey, 24, of the Bronx, New York City, and Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine.
Heuermann is also a prime suspect in the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Connecticut, Newsday reported.
A key piece of evidence was the Avalanche, which had been suspected of being associated with the killings. Yet, for a long time, it would regularly park in front of Heuermann’s home, even showing up on Google Street View, The New York Post reported.
It was not until March of 2022 that authorities — through vehicle registration — connected the Avalanche to Heurmann, the Post said.
As the investigation re-ignited, authorities learned there was a suspect who was 6 feet, 4 inches tall, a description that fit Heuermann.
The investigation also included triangulation of cell phone tower data — despite attempts by the suspect to thwart identification by using burner phones. Also, there was testing on single hair strands found on victims’ bodies, and attempts to match them with DNA found on a pizza box discarded by Heuermann, according to Newsday.
In the investigation, it was determined that Heuermann used and often did internet searches for violence-centered pornography, Newsday said.
Besides Tierney, another law enforcement individual who focused on the case upon taking office was Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison.
The investigation required a careful balance between gathering evidence and being careful not to tip off Heuermann, Harrison told Fox News.
“We found out the Avalanche was connected to him around March – maybe early April,” Harrison said. “And then we started diving a little bit more deeper into who this individual was.
“We found out he was an architect and some other things,“ Harrison continued. “We were able to do some phone records and some other background checks, how he uses his credit card, look at his family – he has a wife and two kids – and just his lifestyle.
“And we started getting closer and closer, saying ‘Hey, this may be our person,’” Harrison said. “So we had to be careful … If he knew that people were following him, then anything could happen from then — he could flee the country and a whole host of other things.”
Among Harrison’s concerns was a cache of 200 guns found at the residence of Heuermann, whose distinctive appearance Harrison described as that of a 275-pound “ogre.”
Delays in the investigation of the Gilgo Beach case may have been the result of the local police chief, a deputy and a district attorney going to prison in 2016 and 2021 for involvement in a cover-up of the police chief’s beating of a man who took sex toys and pornography from the chief’s car, Newsday reported.
The notorious case was the subject of a Netflix movie entitled “Lost Girls,” which set the number of apparent serial killings on Long Island at 10, although it’s not believed all the victims — including eight women, a man and a toddler — were killed by the same person.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.