true crime

For 13 years, police have been searching for the Gilgo Beach serial killer. They just charged a man.

For a decade now, investigators have been trying to uncover what happened on Gilgo Beach in Long Island, fearing a serial killer was responsible for the multiple bodies found. 

Now this week, a man has been charged with three of the murders connected to Gilgo.

In total, 11 sets of human remains were found between 2010 and 2011 around Gilgo Beach. The remains were linked to nine women, one man and a toddler girl. Most of the deceased women were found to have worked as escorts - leading to theories the serial killer responsible had targeted sex workers. 

Only a few of these people killed could be identified - four of the women identified known as the 'Gilgo Four'. These women were in their mid-20s, and later identified by DNA evidence in 2011.

Here is what we know about the victims.

Watch: Imagine finding out your father killed five people. This is Elisha Rose's story. Post continues below. 

Video via Australian Story.

Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 25 years old when she went missing in July 2007. She was from Connecticut, and had been advertising her sex work on Craigslist, Backpage and other websites.


It's believed she had taken the train to Manhattan for work, telling a friend she was leaving her motel room in the city to "meet someone for an out-call". Brainard-Barnes was reported missing by a friend nine days after police believe she took the train to Manhattan.

Brainard-Barnes' sister later told New York Times that police had "brushed off" any claims that Brainard-Barnes was actually missing. The sister said they had difficulty getting police to take their fears seriously or put Brainard-Barnes' name on an official missing persons list "because she was an escort". Brainard-Barnes also had two young children. 

More than three years later, her remains were discovered in December 2010 along Gilgo Beach on Long Island. She is believed to be the first victim of the Gilgo Beach serial killer. 

The second woman to be found murdered was Melissa Barthelemy. The 24-year-old was last seen at her residence in the Bronx in New York. 

Barthelemy was a sex worker who advertised on Adult Friend Finder as well as other sites. She would also meet clients at bars, restaurants and hotels on the West Side of Manhattan.

In July 2009, Barthelemy told a friend she was going to meet a male client and "would be back in the morning". Her mobile phone records show she did travel from the Bronx to Manhattan, likely to meet this man. Her whereabouts from this point is unknown.


A few days later, Bartherlemy's mother reported her daughter missing after being unable to contact her. 

The Barthelemy family received a call from their daughter's mobile phone soon after the disappearance - the call coming from a man who said he had killed Barthelemy. Seven calls were made to the family with the final one being placed on August 26, 2009. Police believe this was indeed the killer who called. 

"He killed Melissa after having sex with her. In the final call, he said he'd killed her," Barthelemy's sister, told PIX11. "He had a strong accent, New York, Long Island. He was very monotone when he talked, like a middle-aged white guy."

In December 2010, her remains were also found along Gilgo Beach on Long Island. 

Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Amber Lynn Costello and Megan Waterman. The four women whose bodies were found on Gilgo Beach. Image: Police. 


The third woman was Megan Waterman.

She was just 22 when she went missing in June 2010. She was from Maine, and also worked as an escort and advertised on Craigslist and Backpage. She was last seen by loved ones when she boarded a New York-bound bus.

Records show she was staying at a Holiday Inn Express on Long Island and left the location at 1:30 am to meet a client. She had also contacted her pimp and told him this information.

Two days later after not returning home, her family reported her missing. They said it was unlike Waterman to not call them and not come home to her then three-year-old daughter. 

Waterman's body was found at the same time Brainard-Barnes's remains were uncovered by police in December 2010, all near Gilgo Beach.

Waterman's pimp was arrested on federal charges of Interstate Trafficking of Prostitutes 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.


 The final victim found associated with the Gilgo Beach serial killer was Amber Lynn Costello.

She was 27 and lived in West Babylon in Suffolk New York. She was a sex worker who advertised on Craigslist and Backpage, doing "in-calls" at her home, as well as "out-calls". Costello was last seen leaving her residence on foot in September 2010 to meet a client. She wasn't seen again, nor was she reported missing. 

Three months alter, her remains were found also near Gilgo Beach.

These four women soon became know as the 'Gilgo Four'. Six more sets of remains were found along the beach area the following spring. 

Gilgo Beach in Long Island. Image: Getty.


The discovery of their remains and the search of the area was prompted by the disappearance of another woman, Shannan Gilbert.

Gilbert, who also worked as an escort from Jersey, went missing in the Gilgo Beach area in May 2010.

In December 2011, more than 18 months after she disappeared, several of Gilbert's belongings - including her purse, shoes and phone - were found in the marsh eight miles from Gilgo Beach. A week later, her skeletal remains were found about a quarter mile from her belongings. 

Investigators back then said they didn't think Shannan was murdered. Instead, they theorised she might have been high on drugs and ran into the marsh, where she died of hypothermia or possible drowning. 

However, an independent autopsy conducted by outside officials revealed her cause of death may have been due to possible strangulation. Her family still believe she was a homicide victim.

Overall, 11 sets of human remains were found in 2010 and 2011 along an isolated stretch of Gilgo Beach, about 64km east of New York City. The remains were linked to nine women, one man and a toddler girl.


Now four of the women found dead - Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Amber Lynn Costello and Megan Waterman - have been officially linked to the 'Gilgo serial killer'.

This week, Rex Heuermann was charged with the murders of Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello. Authorities say he is also the 'prime suspect' in the killing of Brainard-Barnes.

Rex Heuermann, who has been charged with three of the murders. Image: Getty.


Suffolk County's District Attorney said Heuermann is a 59-year-old architect who lived a 20-minute drive from Gilgo Beach. He is also married and a father of two. 

He was arrested on Thursday evening and charged, now facing multiple sentences of life in prison without parole.

Detectives used DNA samples to link Heuermann to the murders, including swabbing leftover crust from a pizza he consumed after a surveillance team saw him throw it away in Manhattan in January. Heuermann allegedly used a burner mobile phone to contact the three women, and bound them with belts or tape before wrapping some of the bodies in a burlap-type material.

Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

For the loved ones of the victims, they have said the news of a suspect charged is both a relief and incredibly traumatising.

"I can't wrap my head around this," one family member of Barthelemy said

"The fact that my family is going to have to sit and listen to all this, to every specific, tiny little detail is making me sick. God has brought peace to the families. Maybe we can start the healing."

With AAP.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.