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Gilgo Beach murders: How a pizza crust, Tinder account, and 'sadistic' Google searches helped police locate Long Island serial killer suspect

  After more than a decade, police have arrested a   New York man   believed to be responsible for the deaths of three sex workers and the p...

 After more than a decade, police have arrested a New York man believed to be responsible for the deaths of three sex workers and the prime suspect in the murder of a fourth woman. An avalanche of evidence – including a pizza crust, a Tinder account, and "sadistic" Google searches – led police to the Long Island serial killer suspect in the cold case murders.

Rex A. Heuermann, a 59-year-old Long Island architect and married father of two, was arrested at his Massapequa Park home on Thursday night. 

Heuermann was charged with murder in connection to the killings of three women who are part of the “Gilgo Four.” He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder in connection with the killings of 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy in 2009, and 22-year-old Megan Waterman and 27-year-old Amber Costello in 2010.

Heuermann was held on no bail. His attorney entered a plea of not guilty on Friday. 

Authorities named Heuermann as the "prime suspect" in the death of another victim found on Gilgo Beach. Maureen Brainard-Barnes went missing in 2007.

The New York Post reported, "Suffolk County investigators spent 18 months painstakingly building a case against suspect Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex Heuermann – the married dad of two who allegedly left a trail of damning evidence behind linking him to the so-called 'Gilgo Four' slayings." 

Witnesses say the last client seen with Costello drove "a dark-colored, first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche," according to Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney.

Coincidentally, a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche was registered to Heuermann. His pickup truck has since been impounded for evidence.

The suspect reportedly used a different burner phone to book appointments with the sex workers. Tierney said that cell phone tower data showed all of the calls were made from Massapequa Park – where Heuermann lived.

Tierney told Fox News, "So we were able to use that technology, but we still had to develop a suspect. And that's where the phone evidence and the evidence with regard to the car and some of [Heuermann's] other activities came in."

"The FBI and other phone analysts are really skilled in what they can do," Tierney continued. "So they could really analyze phone records and really isolate location areas where suspicious activity occurs. And that really allows you to capture or identify suspects."

Investigators were motivated to arrested Heuermann because he continued to use burner phones to make appointments with sex workers, according to officials.

Court documents say Heuermann signed up for Tinder accounts with fictitious names to search for "dates" or "hookups." He purportedly used an American Express credit card via Google Pay to purchase a subscription to Tinder.

"Records obtained from Tinder revealed a burner phone was linked to a fictitious Tinder account for 'Andrew Roberts' using an email that Heuermann also accessed from his personal cell phone," according to the New York Post.

A burner phone was reportedly found on Heuermann at the time of his arrest.

The suspect reportedly used a phone to call Barthelemy’s then-16-year-old sister to say her sibling is a "whore."

CNN reported, "The suspect made taunting phone calls to Barthelemy’s sister, 'some of which resulted in a conversation between the caller, who was a male, and a relative of Melissa Barthelemy, in which the male caller admitted killing and sexually assaulting Ms. Barthelemy,' according to the bail application."

Prosecutors said in the court documents, "Investigators could find no instance where Heuermann was in a separate location from these other cellphones when such a communication event occurred."

Investigators claimed that Heuermann's wife and children were traveling out of New York state on vacation during the time of the victims' disappearances.

Heuermann conducted "thousands" of explicit Google searches for child pornography, nearby sex workers, and other disturbing inquiries, according to court documents.

ABC News reported, "Internet search records from the burner phones showed that between March 2022 and June 2023 indicated the suspect searched for sites 'related to active and known serial killers, the specific disappearances and murders of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Costello, and the investigation into their murders,' as well as 'sex workers, sadistic, torture-related pornography and child pornography,' prosecutors alleged."

Tierney said, "And there was a lot of torture porn. And what you would consider depictions of women being abused, being raped, and being killed."

The district attorney said, "In a 14-month period, he had over 200 searches pertaining to the Gilgo investigation. Not only was he looking at investigative insight. He was looking, trying to figure out, how is the task force using cell phones to figure out what's happening."

The Google searches reportedly included: "Why could law enforcement not trace the calls made by the long island serial killer," "Why hasn’t the long island serial killer been caught," "In Long Island serial killer investigation, new phone technology may be key to break in case."

Investigators reportedly linked Heuermann to the death of Waterman via a pizza crust.

On Jan. 26, investigators witnessed Heuermann throw a pizza box into a trash can in Midtown Manhattan, authorities say. The leftover pizza crust in the box was sent to a crime lab. The DNA from the pizza crust matched a hair found in the burlap used to wrap Waterman's body, according to court docs.

The bodies of Barthelemy, Costello, and Waterman were all found wrapped in camouflaged burlap.

Tierney explained, "All the women were bound at the head, the midsection or chest, and the legs using camouflage burlap used in duck blinds, for hunting. So obviously, it was used to purposely hide the body."

By spring 2011, there were 10 bodies found in the Gilgo Beach area.

The investigation is still ongoing.


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