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The wife of the Gilgo Beach murder suspect unwittingly helped in his arrest. She has now filed for divorce

By Christina Maxouris, CNN

(CNN) — During her more than 27 years of marriage to Rex Heuermann, Asa Ellerup probably knew nothing about the cruel double life her husband was allegedly leading, says Suffolk County's top police officer.

“If you ask me, I don't think they knew about this double life that Mr. Heuermann was leading,” Suffolk County Police Chief Rodney Harrison said of the suspect's family.

Authorities, however, have not ruled anything out and are continuing to gather information “to find out whether the family may have known exactly what Mr. Heuermann was planning,” Harrison said in an interview with CNN's Erica Hill in July 2023.

This month, Heuermann was arrested and charged with murder in connection with the killing of three of the “Gilgo Four,” a group of four women whose remains were found on a short stretch of Gilgo Beach on Long Island in 2010. He was also identified as the prime suspect in the disappearance and murder of the fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, who was 25 when last seen. He was charged with murder in January and pleaded not guilty.

According to multiple law enforcement sources, Heuermann, 60, is expected to face two additional murder charges when he appears in court on Thursday.

Less than a week after her husband's arrest, Ellerup filed for divorce, her lawyer Robert Macedonio told CNN, but he declined further comment on the matter.

Harrison said she was shocked when she heard what her husband was accused of.

But unbeknownst to her, she played a key role in her husband's arrest: her DNA and other evidence helped authorities link Heuermann to the crimes.

Here's what we know about his wife, their life together, and the unexpected role she played in the case.

The two have been married for 27 years

Heuermann and Ellerup married in April 1996, the suspect said in a 2018 testimony. Since then, they have lived with their daughter and Heuermann's stepson in Heuermann's red-and-green parents' house in the Long Island suburb of Massapequa Park.

Yet despite their long time in the neighborhood—and despite Heuermann's long life being rooted in the same community—neighbors knew few details about the family.

According to the Long Island Press, a monthly magazine for Long Island, neighbors described the house as spooky and the family as distant.

“The family is very reserved and quiet,” neighbor Frankie Musto told the publication. “We never noticed anything suspicious.”

In his 2018 statement, Heuermann said he had already been married once. That marriage had lasted three years and they had no children.

Wife’s hair found on all three victims

When the victims were discovered, authorities found pieces of hair that appeared worn, but DNA tests at the time did not provide the answers they had hoped for.

Technological improvements soon produced results.

Hair now believed to belong to Ellerup – and which the suspect probably inadvertently wore on his clothing – was found on or near the three victims, prosecutors claimed in their bail application, citing DNA testing.

That DNA came from 11 bottles in a trash can outside the Heuermanns' home, the court document says. Authorities had been monitoring Heuermann and his family for months after identifying him as a suspect in early 2022, during which time they collected DNA samples from items the family had discarded.

Although their hair was found on the victims, Ellerup and her daughter were both away when the murders were committed, and Heuermann was “alone in the tri-state area,” Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said at a news conference last summer.

“This is very significant in that it narrows the offense to him,” defense attorney Joey Jackson told CNN's Jake Tapper of the finding. “If the suspect's wife is out of town, why would her hair be there when he is in town?”

According to Suffolk County authorities, Heuermann's DNA evidence was also linked to a man's hair found on the burlap sack in which a victim's remains were found.

Shocked, disgusted, embarrassed

Harrison told CNN last summer that he was told Ellerup and her daughter were “shocked, disgusted and ashamed” when authorities told them about the crimes Heuermann is accused of.

Their reaction was the reason he thought they didn't know what he was doing, he said.

“But time will tell,” he added. “And again, there are many more questions that need to be asked of the family and friends.”

CNN has made several attempts to contact Heuermann's wife and daughter.

Lawyers representing Ellerup said last July that she and her family were “going through a devastating time in their lives” and asked for privacy.

“The sensitive nature of her husband's arrest is taking an emotional toll on the immediate and extended family, particularly her elderly family members,” said a statement from the law firm Macedonio & Duncan. “Ms. Ellerup wishes to make no further comment and has asked the public and the press to respect the family's privacy at this time.”

After his arrest, Heuermann was remanded in custody without bail. He pleaded not guilty through his lawyer.

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CNN's Patricia DiCarlo, Rob Frehse and Jean Casarez contributed to this report.