A police search of the Massapequa Park home of suspected Gilgo Beach killer Rex A. Heuermann has resulted in the seizure of a “massive amount” of potential evidence, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said Tuesday.
“We have come to the end of the search for the Gilgo house,” Tierney said, closing the investigation into the house and its property 12 days after it began.
Tierney, speaking to reporters near Heuermann’s First Avenue home, declined to specify what material investigators seized. He said any potential evidence found, including possible blood or DNA, must go through a lengthy process of laboratory analysis.
“We got a massive amount of material,” Tierney said. “All this has to be cataloged and analyzed and it will take quite some time. … It’s not like television. It will take time for the analysts to do their work. Move from trace section to DNA, if applicable. The amount of evidence, which is quite a lot, and now it is up to the task force to examine it. We won’t know exactly what we have for a long time, just given the sheer volume of evidence that was taken.”
Asked if investigators had found any potential evidence that sticks out, Tierney said he would wait for a full accounting.
“Let’s wait,” Tierney said. “I think everybody wanted that singular piece of evidence. But we’ll wait until we see all the evidence. But I don’t think anything will come out at this point.”
Describing the home as “messy” with a vault large enough for people to break into, Tierney said investigators recovered 279 firearms from the vault. Tierney said investigators must inventory all firearms, which included rifles, but Heuermann only had permits for 92 guns.
“There was ground drilling technology used in the backyard,” Tierney said. “There was nothing that stood out from the backyard, as far as the remains. There’s a whole trace analysis that needs to go through the house in terms of hair fibers, DNA blood, we’ll just have to wait for the results.”
Police said they would reopen the street to the public after 2 p.m. The area has been off limits for the most part since police began searching the suspect’s home and property. The activity around the house has attracted a large number of onlookers and onlookers, who have traveled from as far as New Jersey to catch a glimpse of the probe.
Meanwhile, area residents are wondering what will become of the property and their quality of life after police finish their investigation there.
Massapequa Park Mayor Daniel Pearl held an informal community meeting with Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder Monday evening to answer questions and ease the concerns of residents.
“They have a lot of concerns about their quality of life, their safety and their property,” Pearl said.
Many of those concerns have shifted from the media and out-of-town curiosity seekers gathered outside their homes to what will happen after the police are no longer around to protect them.
Pearl said Nassau police have pledged to add patrols to the neighborhood and have squad cars patrol the property. Video surveillance is also expected to be installed in the house to ensure it is being watched at all times, Pearl said.
The village will also put up “no stopping / no stopping” signs to discourage people from stopping at the house to take pictures. The police department will fine violators $150, Pearl said.
“They’re proactive,” Pearl said of Nassau police.
Longer term, Pearl said Massapequa Park is exploring its options to purchase the property.
“Legally we’re lining everything up so that the town is ready to move forward when the time comes,” he said.
News of the end of the home search came a day after Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison told reporters that the search of Heuermann’s home “has been fruitful” for investigators.
“There have been items that we’ve taken into our possession that make it fruitful,” Harrison said Monday, speaking at the scene. “I will say we’re going to go into every crack to make sure there’s nothing we’ve missed and things that are beneficial to this research.”
Harrison declined to detail any of the potential evidence authorities have seized from the home, other than a cache of firearms inside a vault with “a large iron door.”
The police commissioner said he could not say whether any of the killings took place inside the house. Tierney has previously said investigators are looking for trace evidence, such as blood and DNA.
Harrison spoke as investigators were seen using ground-penetrating radar on Monday after digging up the home’s backyard on Sunday.
“We’re just doing a full house investigation to see if there’s anything back there that we need to take a closer look at,” Harrison said. “It will help us identify anything in this backyard that we need to get our hands on.”
Asked Monday if he thought Heuermann was responsible for other murders, Harrison said, “It’s hard to say. This person has been on the loose for a long period of time. But I will say this. We’re going to keep the task force together, keep it intact and see if there are other victims on Ocean Parkway or anywhere else on Long Island.”
By Monday morning, the area of the backyard that police dug up on Sunday was covered in dirt, Newsday drone footage showed. Later in the day, the dig crew pulled out of the backyard.
Tierney said searches of the Heuermann residence had turned up items of varying “usefulness,” but more time was needed to analyze the materials.
Michael J. Brown, the Central Islip attorney who represented Heuermann at his arraignment, did not return a message seeking comment Monday. Brown previously called the case against his client “circumstantial” and stressed that Heuermann had no criminal record.
Police and crime scene investigators dig in the backyard of Rex A. Heuermann’s home in Massapequa Park Monday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff
Monday marked the 11th day that investigators searched Heuermann’s home for evidence. Police first came to the house on July 13, when Heuermann, a 59-year-old architect who prosecutors say led a double life as a serial killer, was arrested and charged with first- and second-degree murder in the slayings of three women whose bodies were found in the Gilgo Beach area in 2010. ch.
“I’m optimistic,” Harrison said. “As you can see, we’ve got people from the coroner’s office, the state police, the Nassau police, and so everybody’s working together. I want to believe we should be done sometime tomorrow [Tuesday] or later this week. … But, once again, this investigation will continue once we leave Massapequa Park.”
The vault of Heuermann’s home, where Harrison said earlier investigators found more than 200 firearms, is not listed in the Village of Massapequa Park’s building and zoning department file for Heuermann’s home. A basement, however, is included in the accompanying 1955 architectural plans.
Heuermann applied for a variance in May 1997 to add a 4-foot chain-link fence around the property.
His parents moved into the three-bedroom house, which was newly built, in 1956 from Oceanside, building department records show. They added a garage and porch the following year.
Prosecutors have said Heuermann killed three women who worked as sex workers: Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello. While Heuermann was charged in three of the 10 murders known collectively as the Gilgo Beach murders, prosecutors said he is the prime suspect in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
Investigators said they linked Heuermann to the three victims using DNA obtained from the pizza crust he allegedly discarded outside his midtown Manhattan office, cell phone site data and a dark green 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche he owned.
The vehicle helped solve the nearly 13-year mystery of who might have dumped the first bodies discovered in thick vegetation in the Gilgo beach area. A state police investigator working on the newly formed 2022 Gilgo Beach Homicide Task Force introduced Heuermann as a possible suspect after searching a police database for owners of dark-colored Chevrolet Avalanches.
Heuermann, who stands 6-4, also matched the physical description a witness provided to authorities of a man who visited Costello’s home the day before she was last seen alive.
Investigators have said authorities in other jurisdictions, including near Atlantic City, South Carolina and Las Vegas, are looking into whether Heuermann could be a suspect in an unsolved murder.
Starting Monday evening, police were taking boxes from the garage and loading them into waiting vans.
With Grant Parpan and Anthony M. DeStefano
Nicole Fuller is Newsday’s senior criminal justice reporter. He started working at Newsday in 2012 and previously covered local government.