He was an “ogre — a large white male in his mid-40s with dark bushy hair.” That’s how a friend described the last client Amber Costello, who was working as an escort, was believed to have met with before she disappeared near her West Babylon, N.Y., home on September 2, 2010. Three months later, Costello’s remains were found off a desolate stretch of Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach, along with the bodies of 10 other sex workers and a toddler — and the hunt for the “Long Island Serial Killer” began.
Thirteen years later, police believe they’ve finally caught the monster. On July 13, authorities arrested 6-foot-4, 270-pound, 59-year-old commercial architect Rex Heuermann and charged him with the murders of three women — Costello, Melissa Barthelemy and Megan Waterman — and announced he is the prime suspect in the death of a fourth, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, based on a mountain of evidence. “Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks among us,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said of the father of two, who pleaded not guilty. “A predator that ruined families.”
He seems to have been hiding in plain sight. Heuermann, who lived with his wife in a dilapidated house in Massapequa Park, N.Y., where neighbors describe him as “creepy” and “antisocial,” became a suspect when cops on a new task force revisited the cold case in 2022 and realized the truck he drove fits a description provided by Costello’s friend. They quickly matched his and his wife’s DNA to hairs found on the bodies. (His wife, Asa Ellerup, was out of town at the time of the disappearances and is not believed to have been involved). Heuermann was also linked to burner phones used to contact the women, as well as cellphones belonging to Brainard-Barnes and Barthelemy. In a sadistic twist, Barthelemy’s phone was used to make taunting phone calls to her teenage sister in 2009. “He knew my name,” the woman, identified as Amanda, revealed, adding that the caller asked, “Do you know what your sister is doing? She’s a whore. [He said] he killed her; he raped her.”
Heuermann’s behavior was also depraved. Cops allege he used a burner phone to perform disturbing internet searches for violent pornography and to follow the investigation into the serial killer online. And a former escort named Nicole Brass came forward to report he brought up the murders when she went on a date with him eight years ago. “It was almost like he was visualizing it and getting off to what he was saying,” she claimed. “My gut was telling me I had to get away from him.”
Even while under police surveillance, Heuermann was still meeting women. “The balance between getting the evidence you need to establish your case in secret while also considering public safety…that was concerning to us,” Suffolk County DA Raymond Tierney admitted of what ultimately triggered the bust, which happened outside of Heuermann’s Manhattan office. He had more than 200 guns at home.
Now, authorities across the country, especially in Nevada, South Carolina and New Jersey, where
Heuermann allegedly spent time, are reportedly revisiting other missing persons cases. “He lived this double life and used the anonymity of phones and computers to shield himself from the rest of society,” said Tierney. “Fortunately, he wasn’t successful.”