Rex Heuerman allegedly discussed the Gilgo Beach murders at a date prior to his arrest
A neighbor recalls his occasional threat about a sloppy parking assignment. Another said her family had spoken to him only once, even though they had lived in the same Long Island neighborhood for years.
A former co-worker recalled the time he took care of her while she was injured, an act of kindness for which her parents later thanked her.
At the center of these conflicting memories is Rex Heuerman, the Manhattan architect who law enforcement officials believe is responsible for the murders of at least three women in cases that remained unsolved for more than a decade after human remains were found on Gilgo Beach on Long Island.
For more on the case, tune into “The Hunt for the Gilgo Beach Killer” on Dateline at 9 ET/8 CT tonight.
Reflections on Heuerman provide a window into how the man described by authorities as “a demon who walks among us” interacted with neighbors, colleagues and others who encountered him.
“I wasn’t part of his dark, twisted world,” Katherine Shepherd, the interior designer who Heuerman helped care for, told “Dateline” in her first radio interview about her former colleague. “He was his other side when he was with me.”
“I don’t understand how it could be the same person,” she said.
But for Nikki Brass, a former escort turned hairstylist who had what she described as a harrowing encounter with Heuerman eight years ago, his arrest was no surprise.
“I’ve told people for years, ‘I said, ‘I swear to God I went to dinner with the Gilgo Beach killer,'” Brass told Dateline. “People kind of laughed, ‘Yeah, right.’ Well, I’m sure you did.”
Grim discoveries on Gilgo Beach
Heuerman, 60, was charged July 14 with first-degree murder in the deaths of three sex workers — Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27 years old.
Authorities in Suffolk County also described Heuerman, who has two children and whose wife filed for divorce days after his arrest, as the “prime suspect” in the killing of a fourth sex worker, Maureen Brainard Barnes, 25, according to bail. Request from the District Attorney’s Office.
Brainard Barnes was last heard from on July 9, 2007. Her remains were discovered on the same day – December 13, 2010 – as those of Waterman and Costello. Barthelemy was found on December 11.
The four women were found along Ocean Parkway, a waterfront road that runs along a barrier island off the south shore of Long Island.
Heuerman has pleaded not guilty and denied involvement in the killings.
“He’s a man who has never been arrested before,” Heuerman’s attorney, Michael Brown, said. “He has maintained his innocence from the beginning of this case.”
Heuerman has not been charged in the disappearance of a fifth sex worker, Shanann Gilbert, who disappeared in 2010 in nearby Oak Beach and whose case sparked a search that led to the discovery of the other women.
Gilbert’s skeletal remains were discovered in a swamp in December 2011. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said authorities believe she may have drowned. John Ray, an attorney for Gilbert’s family, said an independent autopsy showed she was likely strangled.
Heuerman was also not charged in the deaths of several other people found along Ocean Parkway, including Jessica Taylor and Valerie Mack, two sex workers whose partial remains were found along Ocean Parkway during the search for Gilbert.
Partial remains of both women were also found years ago at Manorville, about 45 miles east of Gilgo Beach.
In an interview with Dateline, Harrison said authorities were still investigating possible links between Heuerman and the other victims.
“The one thing we’re not going to do is rule out any of those bodies that were found on Ocean Parkway,” he said.
In August, authorities in South Carolina said they were investigating a possible link between Heuerman and a woman who disappeared from Sumter County, eastern Columbia, in 2017.
“You can’t go in there”
For Shepherd, who met Herman in 2002 when they shared office space in Manhattan, the stark descriptions of her former colleague were disconcerting. She said she knew Heuerman to be fun, friendly and professional.
“Nothing even showed up on my radar,” she said.
Once, about a year and a half after Shepard moved from California to New York City and began sharing an office with Heuerman, Shepard recalled slipping on black ice while walking to work.
A few hours later, when Shepherd discovered she couldn’t walk, Heuerman volunteered to take her to the hospital, she said.
Shepard couldn’t remember whether they were driving or taking a taxi, but he waited while she underwent an MRI.
“I ended up having a herniated disc, and I was in a lot of pain,” Shepherd said, adding that Heuerman then helped her back to her apartment.
“He drove me there and sat me in my bedroom and then went to the pharmacy to get my medication,” she recalled, adding, “I was grateful that he was there taking care of me.”
About two years later, when Heuerman was renovating his house in Massapequa Park, a suburban area about 40 miles southeast of Manhattan, he hired Shepard to help measure the house’s interior.
Shepard remembers that the job was normal, except for one moment.
She recalls that after finishing the first floor, they went to the basement, where there were several rooms and two closets. As they made their way through the area, Heuerman stood in front of the entrance to one of the rooms, Shepherd said.
“He just said, ‘You can’t go in there,'” Shepherd said. “I remember it because it was so unusual.”
Shepherd recalled Heuerman explaining to her that he had a “collection” of guns inside and children in the house, so she moved forward.
Later, when Shepherd made and shared Heuerman’s floor plans, she called the hidden area the “mystery room,” she said.
“And that was just a warning to him because he wouldn’t let me in there,” she recalled. “I was just kidding, you know. And now, it seems so terrible.”
After Heuerman’s arrest, authorities recovered 279 weapons from his home, Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney told reporters. Officials said Heuerman had more than 90 gun permits, dozens of handguns and unregistered assault weapons, according to an October court filing from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
Scary conversation on date night
Nearly a decade after Shepard’s trip to Massapequa Park, Heuerman went on a date with Brass, the former escort, she told Dateline. She said they went to an upscale restaurant on Long Island, and he introduced himself as “Rex.”
Brass said he described himself as divorced and interested in true crime.
To Brass — a fan of the genre — Heuerman seemed too eager to discuss the series of grim discoveries made along Ocean Parkway a few years ago, she said.
“When he talked about the Gilgo Beach murders, he sat up straighter,” Brass said. “He had a smile on his face.”
She recalled that Heuerman asked Brass if she thought Gilbert was connected to the other deaths, and wanted her theory on how the bodies had been disposed of so quietly. Brass recalled telling him she had never been to Gilgo Beach before and had no idea.
Heuerman described the area as dark and desolate, Brass recalled, and said it was possible they were dragged there in the camouflaged burlap bags in which some of the remains were found. (The remains of Barthelemy, Waterman, Costello, and Brainard Barnes) were bound at the head, waist, and legs with camouflage burlap, authorities said.
For Brass, the conversation was troubling.
“His body language, the way he talked about her — he wasn’t a true crime fan,” she said. “Someone was there. There’s a big difference. You can just see it. You can tell. It’s like his whole demeanor changed.”
Brass was so upset that she did something she had never done before in her previous career: She asked a friend to meet her in the restaurant parking lot.
When Heuerman told her he lived near Gilgo Beach — Massapequa Park is a 15-mile drive — and invited her to his house, she demurred, saying it was dark and she didn’t feel comfortable driving at night. She recalled telling him that she planned to end the date there.
When Heuerman insisted and said he could drive, Brass recalled, she told him she had a friend outside waiting to make sure she got safely to her car. Brass said he seemed disturbed, but she left and did not see Heuerman again until years later, after he was identified in the Gilgo Beach murders.
Brass said that in an alternate universe she would have agreed to Heuerman’s invitation. And she might never come home.
Heuerman’s attorney did not respond to questions about Brass’s account.
Confrontation with a neighbor
A few months before Heuerman’s arrest in July, he was walking through a tree-lined neighborhood when he paused at the end of a neighbor’s driveway, according to his neighbor, Jimmy Mack, who spoke to Dateline in his first radio interview.
At the time, Mac was on his porch smoking a cigarette. He couldn’t see Heuerman yet — the bushes hid his porch — but Mack said he heard him: “Oh, that’s the house again,” Mack recalled saying to Heuerman. “These girls, and this guy again.”
Half a minute later, Heuerman — whose name he did not yet know — was still standing there talking, Mack said. So Mac said he showed up.
“We kind of stunned each other,” Mac recalls. “And it was literally at the end of the walkway, where the walkway meets the street, talking to my house.”
“I said, ‘Are you talking to my house, bro?’” Mac said. “He said, ‘Is this your car?’
Mac remembers that the truck was parked halfway to the sidewalk.
“He didn’t like it,” Mac said. And he said, “Oh, I told you guys before.” Now I’m going to shred that truck’s tires.
Mack said Heuerman calmly made the threat and said he would be back in 15 minutes. The truck belonged to Mack’s stepson, Mack said, adding that he ran inside and asked the son if he had ever had a confrontation with Heuerman. He said he didn’t, Mac remembers.
More “dateline” cases.
- After a limousine driver disappears, a fugitive’s network begins to unravel and an international manhunt begins.
- A killer known as a “zombie hunter” is on death row, but some suspect he has another victim
- His wife was killed the day before their evacuation. A decade later, he faced foreclosure again, and a murder charge.
- An Illinois nurse terrorized by her ex-husband has gone to court for help. She died a year later.
- Days before her death, a Wisconsin woman sent an ominous message: ‘He will be the prime suspect.’
Moments later, Heuerman was a few houses away and Mack was chasing him, Mack said. Mack said he cut off Heuerman, and — fearful of Heuerman’s apparent comfort in threatening a neighbor and worrying that he might return with a gun — told him to stay put. (Mack did not say whether Herman mentioned he would return with a firearm.)
It was about 10 p.m., Mack said, and the sight was drawing attention. Mack said he tried to take a photo of Heuerman — in case he returned — but a neighbor who witnessed the confrontation tried to call him, preventing his camera from working.
So Mac said he challenged Heuerman to work things out every now and then.
“I said, ‘If you want to handle our business, let’s get it over with now, or I’ll never see you again in this building,'” Mack said he told Heuerman. “At that moment, I was so hot. And he said, ‘No, no, no. We’re good.’
Mack said he tried to follow Heuerman in his car, but he was gone by then. Mack later alerted his neighbors to the confrontation — in case “anything ever happened,” he recalls thinking at the time.
Then came Heuerman’s arrest. When Mack’s wife shared a photo of the accused with him, Mack said: “I almost jumped out of my shoes.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s the guy.’”
Heuerman’s attorney did not respond to questions about Mack’s account.