What you need to know about the Gilgo Beach serial killings: NPR

Surrounded by law enforcement, victims’ families, attorneys and others, Suffolk County Prosecutor Raymond Tierney pauses during a news conference in Riverhead, Wash. New York, Thursday.

Seth Wenig/AP

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Seth Wenig/AP

The man accused of killing several women and dumping their remains on a Long Island, New York, beach has been charged with two other murders.

Rex Heuermann, a 60-year-old architect, appeared in court Thursday for his arraignment in the deaths of Jessica Taylor and Sandra Costilla, two young women who police say were victims of men targeting sex workers .

Heuermann was previously charged with the murder of four other women, known as the “Gilgo Four,” whose remains were found on the same quarter-mile stretch on Gilgo Beach in 2010.

It’s been almost a year since his arrest marked a major breakthrough in a decade-long investigation into a series of disappearances that attracted national attention and inspired the 2020 Netflix film. Lost Girls.

Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to all murder charges. He was ordered held behind bars without bail and is due back in court on July 30.

Here’s what else you need to know about the case.

Suspect charged with murder of six women

Between 2010 and 2011, police discovered the remains of 11 people found near Gilgo Beach, between Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. Most of them were sex workers who were killed as early as 1996, according to Suffolk County police. Investigators have long suspected a serial killer was responsible, but they also said it was unlikely the victims were murdered by the same killer.

The dead included Jessica Taylor, Valerie Mack, Shannan Gilbert, Amber Lynn Costello, Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, all in their 20s.

Police said they were unable to determine the cause of death of Gilbert – whose disappearance led to the discovery of the series of murders – but said his death was likely accidental, a conclusion disputed by his family.

In July 2023, a major break in the case came with the arrest of Heuermann.

He was later charged with the murders of three of the so-called Gilgo Four women: Barthelemy, 24, Waterman, 22, and Costello, 27. He was charged with the murder of the fourth, Brainard-Barnes, last January.

Cellphone location data and DNA samples found on the remains initially linked him to the four women.

Since his arrest, several pieces of evidence have pointed to Heuermann as a suspect.

He lived in Massapequa Park, where some of the victims were last seen.

A witness described seeing a victim, Costello, being driven by a man in a Chevrolet Avalanche. It was later discovered that Heuermann owned a Chevrolet Avalanche.

Subpoenas and search warrants linked Heuermann to several burner cell phones used to contact victims. An email linked to Heuermann’s alleged cell phones was repeatedly used to conduct “thousands of searches” related to “sex workers, sadistic pornography, torture-related and child pornography,” records show judicial.

New accusations suggest serial killings started earlier than previously thought

The new murder charge against Heuermann for Costilla’s 1993 death makes her the first known victim in the killing spree and suggests the architect may have started killing 30 years ago – earlier than previously thought the police.

In November 1993, the remains of Costilla, 28, were found by hunters in a wooded area of ​​Southampton, New York, according to a recent court filing.

Taylor, another victim, disappeared in July 2003. Her remains were discovered that year and in 2011, in two separate locations. In 2003, a dog walker found his decapitated body and severed arms in a wooded area of ​​Manorville, about 40 miles from Heuermann’s home. In 2011, his skull, hands and forearm were found less than a mile from where the Gilgo Four were found.

In both cases, male hairs found on Costilla and Taylor’s remains were tested and found to likely match Heuermann’s DNA, prosecutors said.

The suspect allegedly kept a planning document to “plan” his murders.

Recovery of data from hard drives and other devices revealed that Heuermann had a “significant collection of violence, bondage and torture pornography” dating back to 1994, according to court documents filed this week.

The collection features “pornographic images that match the crime scenes of Sandra Costilla and Jessica Taylor,” Suffolk County Prosecutor Raymond Tierney said during a press briefing Thursday.

Prosecutors also announced the recent discovery of an alleged planning document that Heuermann used to “methodically plan” his murders. The Microsoft Word document, which Heuermann allegedly tried to delete, was found in March on a hard drive found in the architect’s cellar. It was one of more than 350 devices recovered by investigators during searches of his home.

The document, presented in the court filing, includes checklists that appear to involve steps to follow before, during and after the killings, according to court documents.

The tasks are littered with references to sexual acts and mutilation committed on the victims, prosecutors said.

The steps include reminders to “prepare the story” and to destroy images and other apparent evidence. A “body preparation” list has a note to “remove head and hands.”

If convicted of the current charges, Heuermann faces multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.

NPR’s Juliana Kim contributed to this report.

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