Single lock of hair was used to link Gilgo Beach murder suspect to fourth victim, prosecutor says

Gilgo Beach serial killings suspect Rex Heuermann has now been charged with murder in the deaths of the four women who became known as the “Gilgo Four” after investigators discovered their remains on Long Island in 2010. .

Heuermann is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, prosecutors said Tuesday. Brainard-Barnes was 25 years old when she was last seen in July 2007.

Heuermann pleaded not guilty to the new charge when he appeared in court Tuesday wearing a dark suit with his hands handcuffed behind his back. His daughter and his ex-wife, Asa Ellerup, were present at the hearing.

Heuermann was arrested in July and charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Melissa Barthelemy in 2009, and Megan Waterman and Amber Costello in 2010. He pleaded not guilty to those charges last year.

The remains of the four women were found near Gilgo Beach within a few days of each other in 2010.

“The grand jury investigation into the so-called Gilgo Four is over, it’s concluded,” Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney told reporters after the hearing.

As the cases are processed in court, the investigation will move into its second phase, Tierney said, where authorities will investigate “the other bodies and the other murders, which we believe are important from an investigative standpoint.” “.

Heuermann continues to maintain his innocence, his lawyer Michael Brown told reporters after the court hearing. “He said, ‘I am not guilty of these charges.’ He is looking forward to fighting these charges,” Brown said.

Brainard-Barnes was living in Connecticut and believed to be working as a sex worker when she disappeared. The other three victims were also reportedly sex workers or escorts when they disappeared.

“Not allowing sex workers access to justice sends a message to men who victimize them that perpetrators may never face consequences for their illicit and criminal acts,” said attorney Gloria Allred, who represents some of her family members. of the victims, in a press conference after the hearing. “It’s 2024. Will there be justice for women who just need some money to help their children or themselves?”

Nicolette Brainard-Barnes was seven years old when her mother was killed..

“His loss dramatically changed the trajectory of my life,” he told reporters at the news conference. “There were countless times when I needed her and she wasn’t there.”

Nicolette said her mother used to read to her every night.

“I owe a lot to my mom and I know she would want me to speak for her in this process and for everyone to know who she really was.”

New DNA evidence revealed

Investigators found DNA belonging to Ellerup on a leather belt used to restrain Brainard-Barnes, according to the indictment.

Brainard-Barnes was restrained with three leather belts, one of which was used to bind her ankles, the indictment states.

Brown said the nuclear DNA testing evidence that prosecutors revealed Tuesday was “problematic.”

“We’ve been told all along that the evidence is not suitable for nuclear DNA testing,” Brown said. “Miraculously, nuclear DNA tests and results have been presented.”

In 2010, a hair recovered from a belt buckle was not suitable for DNA analysis and was sent to a forensic laboratory for further analysis before Heuermann was identified as a suspect, the indictment states.

Recently, the lab was able to generate DNA sequencing data for hair found at Brainard-Barnes, confirming a link to Heuermann, the indictment states.

The DNA profile is “7.9 billion times more likely to come from a person genetically identical to Asa Ellerup’s SNP genotype file than from an unrelated individual,” the indictment states.

“Nuclear DNA has existed in hair since it was first recovered in 2010 and now science has caught up,” Tierney said. “I would say it’s a good respite for justice, a good respite for the investigation.”

Investigators also determined that DNA extracted from female hairs recovered from Waterman and Costello’s bodies was “substantially more likely” to have come from a person with DNA profiles genetically identical to those of Heuermann’s wife and daughter, according to the accusation.

The technology used to determine DNA evidence is “state-of-the-art” and “scientifically accepted in both the medical and forensic communities,” Tierney added.

Ellerup was out of town when Brainard-Barnes disappeared, according to the indictment. And the four murders allegedly took place while Heuermann’s wife and children were traveling out of state, allowing him “unlimited time to execute his plans for each victim without fear that his family would discover or learn of his involvement in these crimes.” “, according to the prosecution.

“This indictment…again makes clear that Asa Ellerup and his children were not involved, not even in jurisdiction, when these murders occurred,” Ellerup’s attorney, Robert Macedonio, said Tuesday.

Heuermann’s arrest last year came as a “surprise” to Ellerup and the children, Macedonio added.

“This life that existed, or could have existed, was completely unknown to them,” said the lawyer. “She’s not involved in this and she’s never been involved in it.”

Authorities identified Heuermann as a suspect in early 2022 using cell phone data, witness descriptions and other information, and obtained a sample of his DNA from the remains of the crust of a pizza box he threw away.

Investigators also further connected Heuermann to Waterman by performing advanced DNA testing on a lock of male hair found near her body and comparing it to DNA obtained from leftover pizza, according to the indictment.

More than 200 weapons found in home

Less than six miles from where the remains were found, Heuermann had lived quietly with his family in Massapequa Park, a Long Island suburb, for years.

She married Ellerup in 1996 and lived quietly with her daughter and stepson. Neighbors said the family kept to themselves. Ellerup filed for divorce just days after Heuermann’s arrest, her lawyer told CNN at the time.

Law enforcement officers are seen at the home of a suspect arrested for the unsolved Gilgo Beach murders on July 14, 2023, in Massapequa Park, New York.  -Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Law enforcement officers are seen at the home of a suspect arrested for the unsolved Gilgo Beach murders on July 14, 2023, in Massapequa Park, New York. -Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

When investigators flipped the house last summer, they found between 200 and 300 guns hidden in a boarded-up vault locked behind a metal door. Authorities have also investigated properties Heuermann owns in South Carolina and Nevada.

Investigators recovered two burner phones from Heuermann at the time of his arrest that were used to contact sex workers, Tierney said Tuesday. Prosecutors were able to identify fraudulent email accounts and aliases that Heuermann used to search for “torture porn” and information about the murder investigations and the victims’ families, he added.

Heuermann’s DNA was found on at least one of the bodies, Tierney previously said.

Heuermann’s Internet history included at least 200 Internet searches for information about the status of the Gilgo investigation, as well as compulsive searches for photographs of the victims and their families, the district attorney said.

The Gilgo Four are among 11 sets of human remains found scattered along Long Island’s south shore between 2010 and 2011, launching what police have called “one of the largest homicide investigations” in the island’s history.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Nicki Brown and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.

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