Was Fire Island Jane Doe Karen Vergata Last Seen at Gilgo Beach Serial Killer Suspect Rex Heuermann’s House?

Gilgo Beach Serial Killer

A new witness believes that she last saw Karen Vergata, who was recently identified as Fire Island Jane Doe, at the Massapequa Park home of Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuermann.

Miller Place-based attorney John Ray revealed Wednesday details shared with him by the witness — one of four that have recently contacted him, two of whom have signed affidavits documenting their recollections. The second sworn statement was from a taxi driver who said Heuermann once threatened to kill her and believes she saw the suspect with Shannan Gilbert, the missing woman who Suffolk County police were searching for when they found 11 sets of human remains along Ocean Parkway a decade ago.

“We … added two more investigators to [the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation Task Force] to take this type of information in and to pursue it … to see if it is credible,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison told reporters while joining Ray at the attorney’s news conference.

Ray has represented Gilbert’s family, who believe that Shannan was killed in Oak Beach, where her body was found in December 2011, but authorities have suggested that she may have accidentally drowned in the marsh. Heuermann was charged in July with killing three women found dead in Gilgo Beach and prosecutors have said he is the prime suspect in a fourth murder while the investigation is continuing into whether he may be involved in the other deaths.

The witness account of Vergata at Heuermann’s home is notable for the fact that it would be the first alleged connection between the suspect and one of four Gilgo-area victims whose remains were dismembered and scattered in Manorville, Hempstead Lake State Park and — in Vergata’s case — near Davis Park on Fire Island. Vergata’s death in 1996 also makes her case the one unsolved longest of the Ocean Parkway victims. The victims Heuermann was charged with killing were found intact and had been murdered between 2007 and 2010.

In the affidavit, a 54-year-old woman whose name was not released said she and her then-boyfriend — a New York City narcotics detective — went to Heuermann’s house after finding an open invitation to go there on the wall of Trapeze, a swingers club in Manhattan where couples share partners with one another. On their way to Long Island, the witness said her boyfriend picked up a woman she recognized as Vergata, the witness wrote in the affidavit, after authorities announced in August that they had identified the victim after two decades. Ray said the woman cried when she saw Vergata’s face in the news because the witness told the attorney that she was uneasy with how the victim was allegedly left at the suspect’s house.

“Hey shouldn’t we be taking her, something’s wrong here,” the witness told her boyfriend as she said they left Heuermann’s house, leaving behind Vergata, who ran out of the home naked, according to Ray. The boyfriend reportedly told the witness, “Don’t worry, they’re just playing a game. Leave it.”

That incident was alleged to have occurred on or around Valentine’s Day in 1996, which is when Vergata’s family said they last heard from the victim. Although the affidavit allegedly places Vergata in Heuermann’s home, the witness does not say that she saw the suspect kill the victim. 

In the other affidavit, the taxi driver wrote that she once was called to pick up a woman from the Sayville Motor Lodge, a motel whose owners were charged last year with sex trafficking — and that she believes it was Gilbert who she drove to the Ronkonkoma Long Island Rail Road station after a date with Heuermann went bad in the fall of 2009. The witness recalled that Gilbert said the man told her he was paying her $1,000, but when she looked in the envelope, it was full of pieces of paper, so she locked herself in the bathroom and called a cab, according to the statement. When the cabbie arrived, a large man emerged and covered his face as he fled, the statement added.

Several days or weeks later, the cabbie said she was called to pick a man up from a location near exit 59 on the Long Island Expressway, but when she arrived, he changed his destination and said “he wanted to take her on a long trip into the woods,” but when she refused he pulled out a handgun and threatened to kill her, Ray told reporters. She recognized the man as the same person she saw at the Sayville motel, the witness told Ray.

“I already want to kill you, just give me a reason,” Ray said the witness recalled Heuermann telling her before her dispatcher chimed in that he could see and hear the threats, scaring the suspect off. The attorney added that the cabbie reported the incident to police, but nothing came of it, which is why she turned to Ray when she saw Heuermann’s face in the news and realized who he was.

The other two witnesses Ray said he heard from have not signed affidavits, but one alleged that she believes a man fitting Heuermann’s description pointed a gun at her in Queens. The other alleged that Heuermann sometimes hired more than one sex worker at a time, even while his wife was home, and that his wife accused them of stealing an iron. Heuermann’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment on the information Ray shared.

Harrison said that he personally met with the cabbie and Ray said detectives met with the swinger at the same time as him. Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney issued a statement shortly after the news conference clarifying that private attorneys are not a part of the task force investigating the Gilgo Beach murders.

“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,” he said, noting that it includes Suffolk police, Suffolk prosecutors, New York State police, the FBI and the Suffolk sheriff’s office. “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 Crime Stoppers is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in this case. Individuals can anonymously submit information online to Crime Stoppers by visiting P3Tips.com, calling 1-800-220-TIPS or visit gilgonews.com to submit tips online.

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