Gilgo Beach suspect Rex Heuermann charged in death of 4th woman

ByAaron Katersky WABC logo
Saturday, January 20, 2024
Rex Heuermann pleads not guilty, charged in death of 4th woman
Chantee Lans is live outside the courthouse with the latest details.

GILGO BEACH, Long Island (WABC) -- Prosecutors in Suffolk County, New York, on Tuesday charged alleged serial killer Rex Heuermann with murdering Maureen Brainard-Barnes, who disappeared in 2007 while working as an escort, linking him to her death through DNA and other evidence.

Heuermann, 60, has already been charged with murdering three other escorts. Like Megan Waterman, Amber Costello and Melissa Barthelemy, the remains of Brainard-Barnes were found in a desolate spot along the ocean near Gilgo Beach.

"Today, Defendant Rex A. Heuermann stands before this Court charged by the Grand Jury in a Superseding Indictment, which incorporates not only the above counts, but the additional charge of: MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE, in violation of New York State Penal Law Section 125.25(1), a class A-I violent felony for the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes on or about July 9, 2007," prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Heuermann pleaded not guilty to the new second-degree murder charge. Defense attorney Michael Brown entered the not guilty plea on Heuermann's behalf. He was once again remanded to Suffolk County jail, and the judge set the next court date for Feb. 6.

Brainard-Barnes is believed to be the first of the "Gilgo Four" to be killed. She was 25 years old at the time.

The victim's daughter and sister gathered and spoke out after court on Tuesday.

"I was only 7 years old when my mother was murdered, her loss drastically changed the trajectory of my life, there are countless times I needed her and she was not there," daughter Nicolette Brainard-Barnes said. "I remember she read to me every night and now I can no longer remember the sound of her voice. I wish she was here today, but she was taken from us."

And the pain is still raw for her sister too.

"Maureen was my older sister who was always there for me when I needed her," Melissa Cann said. "Maureen was a mother of two amazing children and they will forever be without their mother."

Watch our series 'Eyewitness to Gilgo Beach' launching Friday, January 19 wherever you stream ABC 7 New York

Watch 'Eyewitness to Gilgo Beach' starting Friday, January 19 wherever you stream ABC 7 New York.

Prosecutors said Heuermann's now-estranged wife, Asa Ellerup, and his children were out of town when Brainard-Barnes disappeared and was killed, fitting an alleged pattern of Heuermann being home alone when the other three were killed.

"As set forth in Exhibit A, travel and cellular telephone billing records had previously established that Defendant Heuermann's wife and children were out of the state during the disappearances and murders of three of the four victims, specifically, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Costello," prosecutors said, citing documents they obtained during a search of a storage unit leased by Heuermann.

The documents include a credit card statement that shows Ellerup checked into an Atlantic City hotel July 6, 2007 and stayed through July 20.

"Based on the foregoing, the murders of all four victims occurred at times when Defendant Heuermann's wife and children were traveling out of state, which allowed Defendant Heuermann unfettered time to execute his plans for each victim without any fear that his family would uncover or learn of his involvement in these crimes," prosecutors said.

The new filing also revealed that prosecutors seized two phones from Heuermann at the time of his arrest that they said were held by him "in fictitious names and used for illicit activities." Prosecutors said Heuermann "utilized these phones in furtherance of hundreds of contacts with sex-workers between 2020 and 2023."

Prosecutors additionally revealed Tuesday they seized hundreds of electronic devices from Heuermann's Massapequa Park home and Manhattan office following his arrest.

Heuermann used the devices to search for the deceased victims and their family members; the status of the investigation; for software that would assist in wiping or erasing data from computers and other similar digital devices and purchase digital masking and forensic wiping tools, prosecutors said.

"Defendant's devices also contained the following: A collection of violent, bondage, and torture pornography preceding, during, and subsequent to the disappearances and murders of the aforementioned victims between 2007 and 2010; and prostitution-related searches preceding, during, and subsequent to the disappearances and murders of the aforementioned victims between 2007 and 2010."

The new court filing also outlines the lengths prosecutors went to obtain DNA from Heuermann's family, including tracking his daughter on a Long Island Railroad train drinking from a gold-colored "Monster Java" can. Investigators saw her toss the can into the trash. They recovered it and took it for analysis, prosecutors said.

Last summer, a special task force zeroed in on Heuermann, an architect who investigators linked to the women through DNA evidence, including a sample taken from pizza crust in the trash outside his Manhattan office.

Heuermann is a father of two from Massapequa Park -- just a few miles north of the dumping ground off Long Island's south shore.

There are six other Gilgo Beach victims whose deaths remain unsolved.

The family of Brainard-Barnes said they have one final wish.

"I want to ask everyone to please remember the victims, Maureen, Megan, Melissa and Amber," Cann said. "I hope that everyone will also remember the other victims from whom charges have not been filed against any suspect."

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