Neighbors of suspected Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex Heuermann have described him and his wife as “recluse and enigmatic” following their arrest in the murders of three sex workers more than a decade ago.
Heuermann was charged on July 14 with the murders of Amber Costello, Megan Waterman and Melissa Barthelemy, who disappeared between 2007 and 2010 and whose bodies were found along a stretch of highway in Gilgo Beach. He is also the prime suspect in the murder of a fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
The 59-year-old architect’s arrest came as a shock to residents of Massapequa Park, where Heuermann lived with his wife, daughter and stepson. Mr. Heeurmann’s defense attorney has described his client as a “loving husband and devoted father”.
But Mr. Heeurmann’s neighbors said The New York Times they never got to see that side of his personality. Instead, Frankie Musto told the publication, Heuermann and his 59-year-old Asa Ellerup avoided interacting with neighbors and kept to themselves.
“I think people don’t expect a serial killer to get married,” Musto said. “I’m friendly to everyone here, but she didn’t talk to anyone.”
Musto said his daughter grew up with Heuermann’s daughter, but she never allowed him to go into the family’s “unkempt house.”
“I didn’t want her in that house,” Musto said, adding that he didn’t recall any neighbors visiting the Heeurmanns.
The manager of an IGA supermarket where Ms Ellerup shopped with her children also told the Times that she often looked somber and never visited the store with her husband.
“Could it have been a monster that killed those girls and an angel back home?” Mary Salmeri said. “Or maybe his family was so afraid of him that they were like his prisoners that they would never tell anyone, even if they had any idea what he was capable of.”
Forensic analysis revealed that the female hair found at all three crime scene locations belonged to Mr. Heuermann’s wife. However, authorities determined through cell phone records that Ms. Ellerup was out of state when the murders occurred.
When Barthelemy disappeared in July 2009, she was in Iceland. Ms. Ellerup visited Maryland around the time Waterman went missing in June 2010, and she also traveled to New Jersey when Costello was last seen in September of that year.
“It is likely that the burlap, ribbon, vehicle(s) or other instruments used in furtherance of these murders either came from the defendant Heuermann’s residence, where his wife also resides, or were transferred from his clothing,” prosecutors explained.
Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison told CNN Tuesday that Ms. Ellerup and her children reacted with shock to Mr. Heuermann’s arrest and are now cooperating with the investigation.
“They were upset. They were embarrassed,” Harrison said. “So if you ask me, I don’t think they knew about this double life that Heuermann was living.”
Mr. Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to all murder charges against him.
Over the weekend, a hoard of 200 to 300 firearms was seized from the suspect’s home, a house he has lived in his entire life and located just a 20-minute drive from Gilgo Beach, where the killer he dumped the bodies of his victims. He had legal permits for 92 weapons, police previously said.
Police are investigating whether Heuermann is behind the murders of seven other victims whose bodies were found along the shores of Gilgo Beach.
An NYPD official told ABC News the 59-year-old is under investigation in connection with missing persons and murder cases in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Investigators further afield are also exploring possible links between the serial murder suspect and other unsolved slayings out of state, after it emerged that Heuermann has ties to South Carolina and Las Vegas.
The married father of two’s DNA has been entered into a state database and his alleged modus operandi is being matched against other cases, including those during the period he was allegedly active in Gilgo Beach.