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A chronology of the investigation into the serial killer on Long Island

Since human remains were found in Gilgo Beach, Long Island, in 2010, authorities have been investigating a series of seemingly related murders.

In 2023, after a years-long investigation, police arrested Manhattan architect Rex Heuermann and charged him with triple murder in connection with the deaths of Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Costello. Six months later, he was also charged with another murder in connection with the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes. All four women worked as escorts and were in their early 20s when they disappeared between 2007 and 2010.

In June 2024, Heuermann was charged in connection with the murders of two other women – Sandra Costilla and Jessica Taylor – which occurred in 1993 and 2003 respectively.

When Heuermann was first arrested, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney told PEOPLE that authorities were “in the process of collecting a huge amount of digital evidence and forensic evidence. We're in that process, so we'll just have to wait and see until the outcome is determined. Then we'll see at the end what comes out of it.”

Eventually, they gathered evidence from disposable cell phones and internet searches, as well as DNA evidence, that pointed suspicion at Heuermann. Now the Massapequa Park resident is incarcerated at Riverhead Correctional Facility in Suffolk County awaiting his court date.

Here is a complete timeline of the Gilgo Beach serial killings from the beginning of the murders to Heuermann's trial.

December 11, 2010: A police officer discovers human remains during an exercise with his K9 partner

A Suffolk County Police Department canine officer and dog search through the brush along the median of Ocean Parkway near Oak Beach in Long Island, NY on December 5, 2011.

Kevin P. Coughlin/AP


A Suffolk County Police Department officer was on a training exercise with his K9 partner, Blue, when they discovered Barthelemy's remains on Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach. Two days later, police found the remains of Waterman, Costello and Brainard-Barnes in the same area. They were all strangled and wrapped in camouflaged burlap.

Costello was last seen on September 2, 2010, after leaving her home in West Babylon, New York. Just days earlier, she had called her frightened roommate after dancing for a customer who then threatened to rape her.

Her roommate ran home to help Costello, she later told PEOPLE, but when she got there she found a burly man in her living room. “It was like fighting Frankenstein,” she said.

April 4, 2011: Three human remains are found on a section of Ocean Parkway

Throughout 2011, more human remains were found, including those of a female toddler, an unidentified Asian man, and a woman initially identified as Jane Doe No. 6 on April 4. A week later, two more human remains were found in Nassau County, including those of the toddler's mother.

“We cannot say with certainty that all of these murders are connected,” serial killer profiler and expert John Kelly told PEOPLE in 2016. “But serial killers can [methods]. A sadistic murderer would only be interested in convenience.”

December 13, 2011: A fifth body is found on Gilgo Beach

Police are completing their search in the Jones Beach area near the town of Babylon in Suffolk County, New York.

JMP/Taamallah/Abaca/Sipa USA/AP


A year after the initial search for missing 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert, authorities found her remains on Gilgo Beach. Gilbert, an escort, had called 911 the night she disappeared in the gated Oak Beach community in May 2010. She made the call after running away from a meeting with a client she met on Craiglist.

January 16, 2020: Police release a photo of a leather belt allegedly belonging to the killer

A picture of the leather belt found by the police.
Suffolk Police Department

Although the FBI and local police were involved in the case, no progress had been made for a decade. However, in January 2020, police released a photo of a black leather belt found at one of the crime scenes that allegedly belonged to the killer.

The belt had the initials “WH” or “HM” embossed on it. At a press conference, Suffolk County Police Chief Geraldine Hart said the belt was “held by the suspect and did not belong to either victim.”

January 2022: Suffolk County District Attorney assembles new task force to investigate murders

Police are completing their search in the Jones Beach area near the town of Babylon in Suffolk County, New York.

JMP/Taamallah/Abaca/Sipa USA/AP


A new Suffolk County district attorney ordered the creation of a task force that included law enforcement officials from multiple agencies, including FBI agents and state and local police officers.

“Rex Heuermann is a demon who walks among us, a predator who has destroyed families,” Suffolk County Police Chief Rodney Harrison later said at a press conference in July 2023, praising the work of the task force. “Without the members of this task force, he would still be at large today. But even with this arrest, we are not done.”

March 2022: Authorities link Rex Heuermann to the case after he was identified with a vehicle seen by a witness

Law enforcement first began investigating Heuermann as a suspect when a witness identified a first-generation Chevy Avalanche registered to him. The witness claimed she saw him drive away in the car near where Costello was located the day before she disappeared.

January 2023: A surveillance team compares DNA from a pizza box discarded by Rex Heuermann with the DNA of a victim

A police investigator works in the backyard of Gilgo Beach murder suspect Rex Heuermann's home at 105 1st St. in Massapequa Park, New York, on July 14, 2023.

J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images


A year after the investigation was reopened, a surveillance team was able to match Heuermann's DNA to that of a victim. Authorities had more than 300 subpoenas and search warrants and were able to collect “abandoned DNA samples” from a pizza crust that Heuermann had thrown into a Manhattan trash can and from 11 bottles that he had thrown into a trash can outside his house.

DNA and hair from the pizza crust and bottles reportedly matched DNA and hair found on the victims' bodies. Although the hair belonged to Heuermann's wife, Asa Ellerup, investigators believed she was not involved because she was not in the area at the time the two women disappeared.

July 13, 2023: Rex Heuermann is arrested

Wanted photo of Rex Heuermann.

Suffolk County Sheriff's Office


Armed with a mountain of evidence, authorities arrested Heuermann in Manhattan. In addition to the DNA matches, authorities also had records of him using disposable cell phones to contact his alleged victims and their families.

“He was using these disposable cell phones and fictitious accounts to contact sex workers,” District Attorney Tierney told PEOPLE after the arrest. “We knew we had to arrest him, and we thought it would be safer to do so [away from] his home as he has 92 gun licenses. I would say he was quite surprised, so we did our job well.”

He continued: “I believe he led a double life, using the anonymity of phones and computers to shield himself from the rest of society. Unfortunately for him – and fortunately for the rest of us – he was unsuccessful.”

After the discovery of the disposable phones, authorities also discovered disturbing internet searches using fictitious email addresses and accounts, including alleged searches on topics such as rape and torture of women, as well as child pornography and rape porn.

He was also said to have been obsessed with obtaining up-to-date information on the case and to have searched for information on the Gilgo investigation more than 200 times over a period of 14 months.

According to authorities, his questions included: “Why couldn't law enforcement trace the Long Island serial killer's calls?” and “Why hasn't the Long Island serial killer been caught?”

January 16, 2024: Rex Heuermann is charged with the fourth murder

Maureen Brainard Barnes.

AP/SIP


After Heuermann had already been charged with the murder of three of the four bodies found in Gilgo Beach in 2010, he was also charged in connection with the Brainard-Barnes murder based on DNA evidence.

Brainard-Barnes was last seen checking out of a Super 8 motel in New York City on July 9, 2007. She was later found bound with three leather belts, one of which was used to bind her ankles.

Prosecutors alleged that Heuermann lured her to Long Island to murder her while his now estranged wife was out of the house with the children, consistent with his previous pattern of behavior.

June 6, 2024: Rex Heuermann is charged with two more murders

Rex Heuermann enters the courtroom for a hearing at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, NY on June 6, 2024.

James Carbone/Newsday via AP, Pool


After spending nearly a year in custody, Heuermann was charged in connection with two more murders, including that of Costilla in 1993 and that of Taylor in 2003.

A grand jury indicted the former architect more than 20 years after Taylor's remains were found on July 26, 2003, by a witness walking the dog, according to an amended indictment. Taylor was found “lying on her back with her legs bent,” with a tattoo on her torso that had been “severely damaged with a sharp object” and her arms decapitated.

Meanwhile, Costilla's remains were discovered on November 20, 1993, by two people who found her “lying on her back with her arms extended above her head and her legs spread and uncovered” while hunting in a wooded area, the indictment states.