SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y. (PIX11) – New evidence connects Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuermann with two more women who were found dead on Long Island, according to an attorney representing victims in the case.
Attorney John Ray on Wednesday revealed new evidence that he says connects Heuermann with Shannan Gilbert, 24, and Karen Vergata, 34, who were found dead on Long Island in 2011 and 1996, respectively.
Ray said new witnesses have come forward with information linking Heuermann to Gilbert and Vergata.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said detectives are investigating the credibility of the new information provided by the witnesses.
“It’s still an ongoing investigation. We have the information. We’re working it, and we’ll see where it leads us down the road,” Harrison said.
A witness recently came forward after seeing photos of Vergata and Heuermann on television, according to Ray.
The witness said she went with her boyfriend and Vergata to a “swingers” party at Heuermann’s home in Massapequa Park around Valentine’s Day in 1996, according to Ray. When the witness and her boyfriend left Heuermann’s house that night, they could see Vergata through the window of the home, according to Ray.
“[The witness] says to her partner: ‘What are we doing? Are we taking her?’ And the partner says, ‘Don’t worry, they’re just playing a game. She stays there, no problem,'” Ray described the encounter at a news conference Wednesday. “With that, [Vergata] runs out of the house naked and is running in front of the garage. And now, the witness says, ‘Hey, shouldn’t we be taking her? Something’s wrong here.’ And the driver tells her, ‘Nah, they’re just playing a game. Leave it.’ And they leave.”
Vergata’s family last heard from her on Valentine’s Day in 1996. Some of her remains were found on Fire Island in 1996 and more of her bones were discovered near Gilgo Beach in 2011.
Investigators believe Vergata worked as an escort and lived in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. She had not previously been tied to the case against Heuermann.
Ray said another witness came forward after seeing Gilbert and Heuermann on television.
The witness, a female taxi driver, said she saw a man matching Heuermann’s description with Gilbert at the Sayville Motor Lodge on Sunrise Highway in the fall of 2009, according to Ray.
The taxi driver had been called to the Sayville Motor Lodge to pick up a passenger, who ended up being Gilbert, according to Ray.
“A giant man, who fits the description of Rex Heuermann, comes out and he’s covering his face with his arms so he can’t be seen. And he runs to a van or an SUV that’s parked nearby,” Ray said. “Out comes [Gilbert], crying, shaking, very upset, and gets in [the taxi driver’s] car.”
The man, presumed to be Heuermann, had promised to give Gilbert an envelope of money to help her family, but Gilbert became worried when she discovered it was full of paper and called the taxi, according to Ray.
“[Gilbert] was a sex worker who was servicing the big man, and the man had seduced her into coming to Sayville several times over the telephone, convincing her that he was just a nice man who was going to help and work with her to help her family, her mother, her sisters and her boyfriend,” Ray said.
Gilbert vanished in May 2010 after leaving a client’s house on foot in Oak Beach in Suffolk County.
The disappearance of Gilbert and the subsequent search for her body led investigators to discover the remains of four other women nearby in Gilgo Beach in December 2010. The following spring, six more sets of remains were found nearby.
Gilbert’s remains were found in December 2011, about three-quarters of a mile from where she was last seen alive.
In 2022, 911 calls were released from the night Gilbert called the police frantically asking for help. However, lead investigators in the Gilgo Beach murders case had previously said they did not believe her death was connected to the so-called “Long Island Serial Killer.”
Heuermann is charged with murder in connection with the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. Heuermann is also the “prime suspect” in the killing of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, authorities have said.
Heuermann allegedly met the women online and then dumped their bodies in the brush off Ocean Parkway. Their bodies were discovered in 2010 during the search for Gilbert.
Heuermann, an architect, was arrested in July. He maintains he is not the killer.
Michael Brown, Heuermann’s defense attorney, provided no comment to the claims made in Wednesday’s press conference.
Following the press conference, Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney said that neither prosecutors in the case against Heuermann nor the Gilgo Beach Homicide Task Force were provided advanced notice of the information Ray revealed. Tierney’s statement went on to say:
“We will continue to investigate this case through the Grand Jury process and not through press conferences. No private attorneys are or have ever been members or agents of the Task Force.
Any citizen who believes that they have relevant evidence regarding the Gilgo Beach investigation should report it to the investigative agencies that comprise the Task Force. Those agencies are the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Homicide Bureau, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Any attorneys representing victims or their families, by definition have a conflict of interest and should not be a part of the investigation. Accordingly, private attorneys are not part of the Task Force and potential witnesses should not be reaching out to a private attorney with an interest in the outcome of the case.”Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney
Finn Hoogensen is a digital journalist who has covered local news for more than five years. He has been with PIX11 News since 2022. See more of his work here.
PIX11 News reporters Mary Murphy, Eileen Lehpamer and James Ford and The Associated Press contributed to this report.