Gilgo Beach Serial Killer Suspect Rex Heuermann Charged With Murders of Jessica Taylor and Sandra Costilla, Alleging New MO

Rex Heuermann
Allleged Gilgo serial killer Rex Heuermann, center, inside courtroom at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Thursday, June. 6, 2024. His attorney, Michael J. Brown is at left. (Newsday /James Carbone)

Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuermann was charged Thursday with the murders of two more women — one with a different modus operandi and the other suggesting that he allegedly got away with murder for twice as long as previously thought.

A grand jury indicted the 60-year-old architect from Massapequa Park with the murder of Jessica Taylor, whose body was dismembered and remains were scattered in Manorville and off Ocean Parkway — unlike The Gilgo Four, who were found intact. He was also charged with the murder of Sandra Costilla, who was found dead in North Sea in 1993, 14 years before than the previously known earliest victim, who was killed 16 years ago. Heuermann pleaded not guilty at Suffolk County court to the new murder charges, which increased the number of victims authorities accused him of killing from four to six.

“I always regretted not bringing the case in,” retired Suffolk County police Homicide Squad Det. Pat Albergo, the original lead investigator on the Taylor case, exclusively told the Press. “When I heard that it looked like they were going to indict him, I was grateful for the fact that they did such hard work and were able to bring some sort of closure to the family. A lot of these cases stick with you, and this was one of them. We tried numerous things to try to bring it to fruition but I don’t think we had the science that they have now that was able to do this. But since Gilgo started, it’s been on my mind. Once parts of Jessica were found at Gilgo, it brought it all back and I hoped something could happen.”

Heuermann was initially arrested in July 2023 — shortly before the 20th anniversary of Taylor’s murder — when he pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello, and Melissa Barthelemy. He later also pleaded not guilty to killing Maureen Brainard-Barnes, who was killed in 2007, making her the first of the four victims found nearby one another in Gilgo Beach in December 2010.

“All of the evidence indicates that the defendant acted alone,” Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney told reporters during a news conference following the court hearing. 

Authorities had previously suspected Costilla, who was found in North Sea on Nov. 20, 1993, was a victim of convicted double murderer John Bittrolff, of Manorville, because she was found in a similar manner to Bittrolff victims Colleen McNamee and Rita Tangredi. However, a document planning the murders that was recovered in March from Heuermann’s laptop led to a nearly two-week-long cadaver dog search in Manorville in April that was reportedly linked to the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation Task Force, during which police briefly expanded their search to a wooded area of North Sea where her remains were found. Although no additional human remains were found, police searched Heuermann’s home again for about a week last month.

Rex Heuermann
Sandra Costilla was found murdered at the Fish Cove Camp at 50 Fish Cove Road in North Sea on Nov. 20, 1993.
DNA in hairs found on Castilla’s body matched Heuermann and a woman that he lived with around the time she was stabbed to death, according to court documents. That DNA evidence also ruled out Bittrolff, who recently lost a request for a retrial. 

“If the new allegations prove true, Heuermann would have started killing serially at age 29, which is average for serial murderers,” Enzo Yaksic, director of the Atypical Homicide Research Group, told the Press. “At six, Heuermann has allegedly killed twice as many victims than the average modern-day serial murderer, who typically takes three lives before being apprehended over the span of just a year.”

Included in prosecutors’ new bail application for Heuermann were screenshots of the planning documents detailing how he would pick up the victims – described as “hunting” – murder them, and dispose of their bodies. The contents of the file included having alibis, making victims unidentifiable, and removing potential DNA on the victims. Disturbingly, in the documents he allegedly described torturing his victims as “Play Time.”

Taylor was found a decade after Costilla, on July 26, 2003, hidden in the brush off Halsey-Manor Road in Manorville. Her skull and limbs were found near Cedar Beach — a short drive down Ocean Parkway from Gilgo — in April 2011 following a search of the entire Jones Beach Island that ensued after the discovery of The Gilgo Four. Authorities also allegedly connected Heuermann to Taylor with DNA from hair found on the victim’s body and with an eyewitness account of his Chevrolet Avalanche at the scene where her body was found, according to court documents. Similar evidence was used to connect him to the Gilgo Four.

“Jessica was a beautiful person,” Jasmine Robinson, Taylor’s cousin who has been advocating for justice in the case, told reporters. “Simple memories such as sitting down to dinner together, drawing pictures, dancing, jump rope, and sleepovers with her and my sister are memories that I cherish. I was lucky to share my childhood with her and I wish every day that we got the chance to create more memories.”

Rex Heuermann
Jessica Taylor. (Courtesy Gloria Allred)

Taylor’s mother, Elizabeth Baczkiel, broke her silence at the press conference, where she made her first comments through her attorney to the media since her daughter was killed two decades ago.

“It’s a tragedy she never had children,” Baczkiel said in a statement read by attorney Gloria Allred, sharing how much she and Taylor’s two brother loved and missed her. “Jessica would have made a great mother. She loved kids.”

Due to the difference in modus operandi between the Gilgo Four — all of whom were found fully intact — and Taylor as well as three other dismembered bodies found in the Gilgo area, former Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota and others had suggested more than one serial killer may have hid their victims bodies in the same area. But Heuermann being charged with Taylor’s murder suggests he allegedly changed how he tried to cover up the crimes he is accused of. 

“When the murders are over a long period, like these, various life circumstances can affect the killer’s MO,” Dr. Carole Lieberman, a forensic psychiatrist, told the Press. “In the early days he may have been more careful to try to conceal the victims, but then when no one came after him, he may have gotten cocky and lazy.”

Taylor was one of two victims found in both Manorville and Gilgo, but she was the first of the dismembered victims to be identified. Valerie Mack was initially found in 2000, three years before Taylor, but wasn’t identified until 2020. Although there are obvious similarities between the two cases, Heuermann was not charged with Mack’s murder. But Tierney said Heuermann is a suspect in that case as well.

“I think that would be fair to say,” Tierney said when asked about Mack.

Besides Taylor and Mack, two other Gilgo-area victims were similarly scattered. Parts of Karen Vergata, the victim previously known as Fire Island Jane Doe until she was identified last year, were found on Fire Island in 1996 and near Tobay Beach in 2011. And parts of the unidentified victim known as “Peaches,” so named for her tattoo, were found at Hempstead Lake State Park in 1997 and at Jones Beach in 2011. Two more victims, “Baby Doe,” daughter of Peaches and “Asian Male Doe,” were both found intact along Ocean Parkway in 2011.

Police were initially searching for Shannan Gilbert, a New Jersey woman reported missing from Oak Beach in May 2010, when the other remains were found. Her body was found in December 2012 in a marsh near where she was last seen. Authorities have said it is unclear whether she died, but her family maintains that she was murdered, based on the desperate 911 call she made.

“We’re not going to stop,” Tierney said of the continuing investigation. “We owe that to the victims.”

Michael Brown, Heuermann’s defense attorney, had less to say than usual. In the past, he has called the veracity of DNA evidence into question, and mentioned a need to look at others previously suspected in the case.

“The allegations are obviously very disturbing today,” Brown told reporters. “But I haven’t seen anything and we’ll do the best to review it and prepare a defense.”

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