Gilgo Beach murders suspect Rex Heuermann charged with 4th killing

Accused serial killer Rex Heuermann faces another murder charge
Accused serial killer Rex Heuermann faces another murder charge 02:36

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. -- New charges were filed Tuesday against accused Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex Heuermann

It comes six months after his arrest. 

He was indicted Tuesday in the death of his fourth alleged victim, 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes of Connecticut. 

For the first time, her grieving family spoke publicly. 

Suffolk County district attorney Ray Tierney inside Judge Timothy P. Mazzei's courtroom at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, where alleged Gilgo Killer Rex Heurmann was indicted in the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes. James Carbone

"I was only 7 years old when my mother was murdered. Her loss drastically changed the trajectory of my life," daughter Nicolette Brainard-Barnes said. "While the loss of my mom has been extremely painful for me, the indictment by the grand jury has brought hope for justice for my mom and my family." 

Nicolette's family had prayed for a resolution. 

Investigators said they linked Brainard-Barnes' murder to Heuermann via DNA from a female hair found in the buckle of a belt used to bind her ankles, feet and legs - eight trillion to one that it matched Heuermann's wife Asa Ellerup or daughter Victoria, who was tailed on an LIRR train and threw out an energy drink, according to court documents. 

Read the superseding bail application in the Gilgo Beach murders case

Gilgo Superseding Bail Application FINAL (1) by CBSNewYork Scribd on Scribd

Prosecutors made it clear they believed all hair transfer were made from Heuermann to his alleged victims. The family was out of town for the murders of the Gilgo Beach Four. 

"Asa Ellerup and her children were not involved, not even in the jurisdiction, when these murders took place," Ellerup's attorney Robert Madedonio siad. 

The accused serial killer, his hands shackled behind his hulking back, showed no emotion at all. He was wearing a tie and gray suit, and barely made eye contact with anyone during the court proceeding. 

"You're talking about a gentleman who has never been arrested before. He's a productive member of society. He's going to work every day. He's supporting his family, and he's incarcerated. And he's claiming he didn't do this. But he is looking forward to having his day in a courtroom," Heuermann's attorney Michael Brown said. 

"Your reaction to the hairs linked to his daughter and wife?" CBS New York's Jennifer McLogan asked.

"Miraculously, nuclear DNA testing and results have come forward," Brown said. 

Family of Gilgo Beach murder victim emotional as Rex Heuermann is charged with her killing 02:56

DA Ray Tierney says it's not a time for sarcasm, and it was worth the wait, and that nuclear DNA will help bring justice to the four murder victims. 

"Science has caught up. I would, a good break for justice. A good break for the investigation," Tierney said. "Nuclear DNA, as illustrated, is much more discriminant."

New court documents also reveal how the accused killer used burner phones to reach out to sex workers as recently as last year. They said the hundreds of electronic devices seized from his Massapequa Park home included Google searches for the Gilgo victims, and software that would wipe or erase data.

Prosecutors say the seized electronic devices revealed other disturbing Google searches, as well.

"To see all of the types of searches that he did on the internet ... It is rare indeed to find that kind of detail," CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said.

Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuemann charges with 4th murder 25:05

It was a day to honor the victims, Tierney said. 

"She was an intellectual. She was a writer. She was an artistic person. She cared very deeply about the people that she loved," Tierney said. "It's been an honor and a privilege to work these cases, and to provide that small measure of closure." 

"It has been 16 years since I last saw my sister, 16 years since I heard her voice, because 16 years ago, she was silenced," Brainard-Barnes' sister Melissa Cann said. "Maureen was a mother of two amazing children, and they will forever be without their mother. Maureen was my older sister, who was always there for me when I needed her." 

Gilgo Beach killings suspect Rex Heuermann faces new murder charge 02:54

When Heuermann was arrested in July and charged as the elusive Gilgo Beach serial killer, prosecutors said his DNA from discarded pizza and burner phone evidence tied him to three murdered women -- Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello -- whose bodies were found along Gilgo Beach in 2010. 

The petite 25-year-old from Norwich, Connecticut, was a mother of two. She was working as a Craigslist escort in Manhattan when she disappeared in July 2007. Her remains were found three years later near three other women's bodies, dumped along desolate Ocean Parkway on Long Island. 

Police dubbed them the "Gilgo Four." They were all sex workers, wrapped in burlap. Now prosecutors say they were all murdered, at different times, by Heuermann. 

The DA said the grand jury will continue to try to solve the remaining murders at Gilgo Beach. 

The next court date in the case is Feb. 6. 

Watch: Legal expert on the case

Legal expert: What to expect from Rex Heuermann's court appearance 03:45

New York criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor David Schwartz spoke with CBS New York ahead of Tuesday's court appearance to put the developments into perspective. He called it a "scientific case."

"Heuermann was indicted and remanded for the first three murders. They made the strategic decision to make the arrest at that moment in time, because they were already surveilling him for about a year. They just didn't want anything to go wrong," he explained. "So they made that arrest, and in the meantime, they were investigating the fourth murder. They were waiting for the mitochondrial DNA analysis on the fourth murder."

Schwartz went on to add "DNA is not a layup."

"They didn't use nuclear DNA, which specifically points to a particular person. They used mitochondrial DNA, because of -- 13 years later, all this time went by, which excludes 99.6% of the population," he said. "So it's scientific evidence, plus circumstantial evidence -- they have his truck, they have phone records, they have all types of other evidence that they're going to piece this case together. So I expect this case to be a complicated case, and I expect it to last a good amount of time."

"He's been incredibly lucky or skilled at hiding his identity," forensic expert Dr. N.G. Berrill told CBS New York.

Berrill says the investigation into Heuermann will continue, including into the six still-unsolved murders along Gilgo Beach.

"You have to imagine that they're searching high and low and going back over cold cases ... Time will tell if they can make the link," he said.

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