Family members of Gilgo Beach serial killer victims are outraged that the wife and children of suspect Rex Heuermann will reportedly be paid $1 million to participate in a documentary.
The development of Asa Ellerup receiving a six-figure sum from NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock sparked questions about whether such a payment is appropriate.
“They will be filmed throughout the trial and after the trial’s outcome,” an anonymous source told NewsNation, which first reported the payment.
The Society for Professional Journalists is critical of the media paying for interviews — a frowned-upon practice known as checkbook journalism —- in exchange for exclusive rights to a person’s story.
“Checkbook journalism undermines journalistic independence and integrity and threatens the accuracy of the information that is purchased,” SPJ wrote in a position paper. “Paying for information immediately calls into question the credibility of the information. Readers or viewers have a legitimate right to wonder whether the source is disclosing this information because the information is important or because the source is getting paid for it.”
The news came after Ellerup attended her estranged husband’s most recent pretrial hearing Wednesday at Suffolk County court — the first court date she came to since Heuermann was arrested in July and she filed for divorce days later. The daughter of the Happy Face Killer previously started an online fundraiser to help Ellerup and the couple’s children Victoria and Christopher get back on their feet after the arrest.
Sherre Gilbert, whose sister Shannan Gilbert police were searching for when investigators found 10 sets of human remains along Ocean Parkway in 2010 and 2011, shared choice words on social media in response to the news.
“Disappointed, disgusted, flabbergasted, frustrated are a few words that come to mind right now,” she tweeted. “The way that the media will buy stories to further re-victimize, re-traumatize, and exploit the families & victims of serial killers is evil!”
Authorities have suggested Gilbert may have drowned, but her family maintains she was killed. Heuermann pleaded not guilty to the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Amber Lynn Costello, and Megan Waterman. He is a prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes and authorities have said they are investigating if he is involved in the deaths of others found in the area.
Heuermann’s attorney Michael Brown told reporters last week that Ellerup believes Heuermann is innocent.
“My understanding is that she doesn’t believe that he was capable of or committed these acts,” Brown said after the hearing, which was otherwise uneventful besides Ellerup’s appearance.
“I haven’t stopped shaking all morning,” tweeted Jasmine Robinson, the cousin of Gilgo Beach victim Jessica Taylor. “I’m so fucking disgusted to see that RH’s family will become rich off of the suffering of victims and their families.”
A Peacock representative could not be reached for comment. Neither could attorneys for Ellerup nor the couple’s children.
For more Long Island Serial Killer coverage visit longislandpress.com/tag/long-island-serial-killer