Who are the victims known as the 'Gilgo Four?' | Investigation timeline

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, July 14, 2023
Who are the 'Gilgo Four?'
Who are the woman known as the 'Gilgo Four,' the Gilgo Beach murder victims suspect Rex Heuermann has been connected to? Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett has the story.

MASSAPEQUA PARK, Nassau County (WABC) -- 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 Rex Heuermann, an architect living across a bay from where some of the bodies were found.

The Gilgo Beach case has drawn immense public attention since human remains were found along a New York beach highway more than a decade ago. The mystery attracted national headlines for many years and the unsolved killings were the subject of the 2020 Netflix film "Lost Girls."

The deaths of 11 people whose remains were found in 2010 and 2011 have long stumped investigators. Most of the victims were young women who had been sex workers. Several of the bodies were found in thickets along a sandy stretch known as Gilgo Beach.

Shannan 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.

MORE: What we know about the suspect in the Gilgo Beach murders

Darla Miles reports from outside the office building where Rex Heuermann was arrested.

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.

On Friday, Heuermann was charged in the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello, whose bodies were found covered in burlap along Ocean Parkway on Long Island's South Shore, according to an indictment unsealed Friday in Suffolk County Criminal Court.

They are linked to the deaths of a fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes. While Heuermann is not charged in that death, the indictment said he is the"prime suspect in her death."

They are known as the "Gilgo Four," and were each found within a quarter mile of one another.

ALSO WATCH | Exclusive video of Rex Heuermann's arrest

Eyewitness News obtained exclusive video showing the arrest of Rex Heuermann outside his office in Midtown, Manhattan.

After Heuermann's arrest was announced Friday, families of the victims expressed relief.

"We breathe a great sigh of relief," said John Ray, an attorney representing the families of Jessica Taylor and Shannon Gilbert. "Finally something has been done and finally someone has been caught."

Taylor's cousin Jasmine said she is grateful for the hard work of law enforcement and hoped the work would continue.

"I hope that she's remembered as a beautiful young woman," she said, and not as a sex worker.

She said she is "shell shocked" by the arrest 20 years after Taylor was killed.

MORE: How investigators tracked down the Gilgo Beach murders suspect

Former Chief of Detectives for NYPD, Robert Boyce, talks about the Gilgo Beach murders investigation.

Ray said there are likely multiple killers and called on police to remain dogged.

"It's the beginning," he said. "There are other bodies that we think are related."

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.

In 2022, the Suffolk County Police released the following information about the Gilgo Four:

Maureen Brainard-Barnes

Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 25 years old when she went missing and was living at 180 Prospect St. in Norwich, Connecticut. She is believed to have taken an Amtrak train from New London, Connecticut to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan on July 6, 2007.

While in Manhattan, she was staying at the Super 8 Motel, located at 59 West 46th St. At the time, Brainard-Barnes, who was 4 feet 11 inches tall, was working as a sex worker, advertising on Craigslist, Backpage and other websites. She was known to advertise under the names Juliana or Marie. Her routine was to travel to Manhattan for a few days to work as an escort, and then return home to Connecticut. While in Manhattan, she was known to stay at The Super 8, The Red Roof Inn on West 32nd Street, the Carter Hotel on West 43rd St. and the Manhattan Hotel on 8th Avenue.

On occasion, Brainard-Barnes would travel with another female who worked out of a different room at the same location. They both may have used a male friend, who they would refer to as their cousin, to accompany them and offer a level of safety and protection. Brainard-Barnes traveled with her female friend the weekend she went missing, however her friend returned home early and Brainard-Barnes stayed behind. Brainard-Barnes was last heard from on July 9, 2007 at 11:43 p.m. when she called a friend in Connecticut. Although she was known to work out of motel rooms, on the night of July 9, 2007, she told her friend she would be going to meet someone outside of the motel on an "out-call."

Brainard-Barnes was reported missing by a friend to the Norwich Police Department on July 14, 2007. The NYPD assisted the Norwich Police Department in the missing person investigation, eventually taking it over. Brainard-Barnes was found on December 13, 2010 on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during the search for Shannan Gilbert, who had gone missing from Oak Beach.

She is believed to be the first victim in what is known as the "Gilgo Four."

Melissa Barthelemy

Melissa Barthelemy was last seen at her residence, a basement apartment at 1149 Underhill Ave. in the Unionport section of the Bronx on July 12, 2009. She was 4 feet 10 inches tall and was 24 years old when she was last seen.

Barthelemy was a sex worker who advertised on Adult Friend Finder as well as other sites. She used the aliases Chloe and VerySexyChloe. She had tattoos of the words "Blaze" and "Focus" on her back, and letters on her chest. She was also known to meet clients at bars, restaurants and hotels on the West Side of Manhattan.

On July 12, 2009, the night she was last seen, Barthelemy told a friend she was going to see a man and would be back in the morning. This friend was aware she was a sex worker, but Barthelemy offered no other details. Her cellphone records show she traveled from the Bronx to Manhattan, most likely via taxi.

Barthelemy's mother had not heard from her or been able to contact her for a few days so she reported her missing to the NYPD on July 18, 2009. The investigation showed cellphone activity in Manhattan, Freeport, Massapequa and Lindenhurst. Motels in and near these neighborhoods were investigated.

After Barthelemy had been reported missing, her younger sister received a series of taunting phone calls from someone using Barthelemy's phone. These calls are believed to have come from the killer and were made from the area near the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue, and also from near Penn Station. These areas were thoroughly canvassed immediately following the calls, however, due to the large amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, no leads were developed.

On December 11, 2010, Barthelemy's body was found on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during the search for Shannan Gilbert.

Although she was the first victim found, she is believed to be the second of the "Gilgo Four" to be killed.

Megan Waterman

Megan Waterman was 22 years old when she was last seen on June 6, 2010. Waterman was a resident of Scarborough, Maine and was a sex worker who advertised on Craigslist and Backpage. She used the names Lexxy and Sexy Lexi. She was last seen by her family boarding a New York-bound Concord Trailways bus in Maine, possibly with her pimp.

Waterman was staying at the Holiday Inn Express, located at 2050 Express Drive South in Hauppauge. Waterman was known to stay at other hotels and motels on Long Island, including the Extended Stay America in Bethpage. Waterman left the Holiday Inn Express at 1:30 a.m. on June 6, 2010 to meet a client. Waterman called her pimp, who was in Brooklyn at the time, to tell him she was going to a convenience store near the hotel.

Waterman was reported missing to the Scarborough Maine Police Department on June 8, 2010. Family members felt it was unlike her not to call them to check on her then-3-year-old daughter. The Scarborough Maine Police Department contacted the Suffolk County Police to assist in the missing person investigation.

Waterman's body was found on December 13, 2010 on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during the search for missing person Shannan Gilbert.

She is believed to be the third victim in what is known as the "Gilgo Four."

Waterman's pimp was arrested on federal charges of Interstate Trafficking of Prostitutes on April 11, 2012 and was sentenced to three years in federal prison in January 2013. There is no information to suggest he had any knowledge or participated in any way in Waterman's murder.

Amber Lynn Costello

Amber Lynn Costello was 27 years old and lived at 1112 America Ave. in West Babylon when she was last seen by acquaintances. Costello was a heroin addict who lived at the house with another female and two men, who were also heroin addicts. Costello, who was 4 feet 11 inches tall, and was a sex worker who advertised on Craigslist and Backpage to support her and her roommates' heroin addiction. Costello used the names Carolina or Mia and had tattoos of "Kaos" on her neck, a butterfly on her lower back and the word "Margeret" on her leg.

Costello had moved to New York from Clearwater Florida and had completed a 28-day drug rehab, but had relapsed not long before her disappearance.

Costello and her roommates shared a cellphone. The other female roommate was also a sex worker supporting a heroin addiction and the two male roommates would arrange dates with clients for the women. Costello did "in-calls" at her home, as well as "out-calls."

When Costello would meet clients at her home, the two male roommates would often arrange a scam, during which, once a client had paid money, and before any sex acts occurred, they would confront the client saying Costello was their girlfriend and the client would flee.

Costello was last seen leaving her residence on foot on September 2, 2010 to meet a client who was picking her up at her house. Costello did not have her cellphone with her at the time and she was never reported missing.

Costello was found on December 13, 2010 on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during the search for missing person Shannan Gilbert.

She is believed to be the fourth victim in what is known as the "Gilgo Four."


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