FREEPORT, N.Y. (PIX11) — The East Harlem woman who flagged Nassau County investigators about potential ties between her aunt’s 1989 murder and accused Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex Heuermann seems to be getting results.

Felicita Figueroa notified PIX11 News that an assistant district attorney from Nassau County called her recently and said he would review the cold case file of Carmen Vargas. Vargas, 29, was discovered dead on the southbound side of the Meadowbrook Parkway in Freeport on Sept. 11, 1989.

The victim was bound around her ankles — with a rope on her neck and a towel over her face.
She was missing a piece of the hyoid bone in her neck.

Heuermann was doing an internship in the Freeport area in the late 1980s, and the Meadowbrook Parkway leads directly to Jones Beach, where Heuermann did seasonal work earlier in the decade. Meadowbrook Parkway also goes directly to the traffic circle where Ocean Parkway connects to Jones Beach. The Gilgo Four victims that Heuermann has been linked to were dumped in the brush off Ocean Parkway and discovered in December 2010.

The niece of Vargas, who was only 12 when her aunt disappeared, was the last person to see her aunt alive. The family had just returned from a visit to the Central Park pool in the summer of 1989.

“She got into a dark car,” Figueroa recalled. “I was only, like, 12 years old, so I couldn’t really see. But I could tell it was a white man with glasses.”

When PIX11 News contacted the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office Friday, Communications Director Brendan Brosh sent this statement: “We’re working with our law enforcement partners to review unsolved homicide cases that fit the alleged pattern of Rex Heuermann.”

Brosh pointed out that New York State Troopers would be the lead investigators on the Vargas case because she was discovered on a state parkway. The same state police division is also in charge of the 2008 cold case murder of Tanya Rush, a woman who was found dismembered in a black suitcase near the entrance ramp of the Southern State Parkway in North Bellmore.

Rush had turned to sex work in Brooklyn to pay for a drug habit. She was the beloved mother of three children, who remembered what their mom was like before the scourge of crack cocaine.

The niece of Vargas said her aunt also had issues with drugs and used to street walk.

“She was really little,” Figueroa recalled. “There are too many similarities” with the alleged Heuermann victims, Figueroa added.

Vargas wasn’t identified for three years. After her family in East Harlem saw a Nassau County Crime Stoppers report on TV in 1992, they contacted police.

A detective from Nassau County visited, and a sister of Vargas gave police dental records. The records identified Vargas as the 1989 victim from the Meadowbrook Parkway, who was missing three teeth.

Police interviewed serial killer Joel Rifkin, who was arrested in 1993, to see if he had killed Vargas. He denied her murder was his handiwork, even as he confessed to the killing 17 other women.

PIX11 News left a message for state police Friday to seek updates on the Vargas investigation.