SUFFOLK COUNTY, New York (WABC) — Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance in 2010 sparked the discovery of 11 bodies on and near Gilgo Beach on Long Island. After more than a decade passed with no arrest, 59-year-old Rex Heuermann was arrested on July 13, 2023. He was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder in connection with the deaths. Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and he was named as a prime suspect in a fourth murder investigation.
The four deaths investigators believe Heuermann is connected to are those of the “Gilgo Four.” The “Gilgo Four” were all petite sex workers in their 20s who advertised on Craigslist. All of their bodies were found wrapped in burlap near Gilgo Beach within a mile of each other.
Thirteen years after Gilbert disappeared, the Gilgo Beach murders case has garnered national attention once again. But this case has roots as far back as 27 years ago.
The first human remains connected to the Gilgo Beach murders are found.
April 20, 1996
A pair of severed legs wrapped in plastic are discovered on Fire Island. The woman is referred to as “Fire Island Jane Doe.” Her remains are the first indication that something sinister is happening on Long Island.
Partial remains of a woman are found in Manorville, Long Island. This woman is referred to as “Manorville Jane Doe” by investigators.
Partial remains of a woman are found in Manorville in the same location remains were discovered three years prior.
The first of the “Gilgo Four” disappears.
July 9, 2007
Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, is seen alive for the last time. She was living in Connecticut and working as a sex worker. She would often travel to Manhattan to meet clients, as she was the week she went missing.
July 12, 2009
Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx disappears. She worked as a sex worker. The night she disappeared, she told a friend she was visiting a client. After her disappearance, her family received several phone calls from her cell phone in New York City. They said on the other end of the taunting phone calls was the voice of a man.
May 1, 2010
Shannan Gilbert, 24, of Jersey City disappears. She disappeared after visiting the home of Joseph Brewer in Oak Beach. Detectives said that Brewer was not a suspect in the investigation. Gilbert called 911 before she disappeared.
June 6, 2010
Megan Waterman, 22, from Maine is seen alive for the last time at the Hotel Inn Express in Hauppauge, New York. She was a sex worker and had a three-year-old daughter.
September 2, 2010
Amber Lynn Costello, 27, disappears. She lived in West Babylon, New York. She was last seen leaving her residence to meet a client. At the time of her disappearance, she did not have a cell phone on her. Costello was never reported missing.
The first remains of the “Gilgo Four” are found.
December 11, 2010
As canine teams are searching for Shannan Gilbert, they discover the skeletonized remains of Melissa Barthelemy. (Her remains were not identified for another month.) She was wrapped in burlap in the thick brush on Gilgo Beach. The beach they found her on was covered in snow.
December 13, 2010
Investigators return to the area where they discovered the first body and find three more badly decomposed bodies wrapped in burlap. They were searching in punishing weather conditions late into the night. They said there were no obvious signs of trauma to the bodies and that at least two of the bodies belonged to women.
December 14, 2010
For the first time, authorities say the murders were potentially the work of a serial killer.
The “Gilgo Four” are identified by investigators.
January 19, 2011
Investigators identify 22-year-old Megan Waterman as one of the bodies found on Gilgo Beach. She was the first of what would become known as the “Gilgo Four” to be identified.
January 24, 2011
Suffolk County Police identify the three other bodies found in December 2010 as Melissa Barthelemy, Amber Lynn Costello and Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
March 29, 2011
In another attempt to find Shannan Gilbert, a fifth body is found along Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach. The remains were recovered less than a mile from where the “Gilgo Four” were discovered.
March 31, 2011
Investigators are still unable to identify the fifth body, but they confirm the remains belong to a woman. They say the body does not belong to Gilbert.
Investigators continue to find more bodies, but the remains differ from those of the “Gilgo Four.”
April 4, 2011
Police find three more victims in the area between Oak Beach and Gilgo Beach, bringing the total count of victims to eight. Investigators identify the victims as Jane Doe Number 6, a baby girl and an Asian man.
The baby was found wrapped in a blanket and between 18 and 24 months old when she died. Investigators say they are unsure if she was murdered. They believe the man was in his late teens or early 20s when he died. Although a cause of death was not revealed, police say he died a violent death. He was found wearing what investigators referred to as women’s clothing.
April 11, 2011
For the first time, investigators expand their search into Nassau County, and a ninth and 10th victim are discovered. Their bodies were found on Ocean Parkway in Jones Beach, about five miles from where the “Gilgo Four” were found. Police say they have several people they consider as persons of interest, but no suspect has been named.
The ninth victim, Jane Doe Number 9, is discovered to be Fire Island Jane Doe, whose legs were found in 1996. Due to DNA testing, it is also believed that she was the mother of the unidentified baby found on Gilgo Beach. Fire Island Jane Doe/Jane Doe Number 9 is renamed “Peaches” because of a tattoo found on her body. Investigators say they believe mom and baby were killed at the same time.
May 9, 2011
Investigators say that the fifth and sixth bodies that were found were dismembered, unlike the “Gilgo Four.” Only the head and hands of the women were found on Gilgo Beach. The rest of their bodies had been found 20 years earlier, 40 miles away, in Manorville.
One of the dismembered women, Jane Doe Number 5, is named as 20-year-old Jessica Taylor. Taylor disappeared in 2003. She was working as a sex worker in New York City. The other woman remains unidentified, but investigators believe their two cases are linked. The partial remains of Jane Doe Number 6 are connected to Manorville Jane Doe, whose torso was found in Manorville in 2000.
Investigators now say they believe they are looking for three, if not four, killers. One killer who they believe is responsible for the “Gilgo Four,” one responsible for Jane Doe 5 and Jane Doe 6, and one or two separate killers responsible for the four other bodies found.
Investigators have found 10 bodies and identified five of them, but they are still searching for Gilbert.
November 29, 2011
Suffolk County Police say they believe all of the 10 victims found on and near Gilgo Beach may have been related to sex work, even though only five of the 10 were identified. They say it is possible that one killer is responsible for all of their deaths. Even though her disappearance sparked the investigation, investigators say they do not believe Gilbert’s case is connected.
After a year and a half of searching, investigators find Shannan Gilbert.
December 11, 2011
Investigators find a cell phone, lip gloss, shoes and a pocketbook they say belonged to Shannan Gilbert on Gilgo Beach. They say do not believe her death is related to the 10 bodies they found in the area over the last several months.
December 13, 2011
Nineteen months after she vanished, Suffolk County Police find the skeletal remains of Shannan Gilbert on Gilgo Beach. Investigators believe her cause of death was accidental drowning.
December 10, 2015
After an ex-Suffolk County police chief is charged in an unrelated investigation and personnel changes are made within the department, the FBI officially joins the investigation into the Gilgo Beach murders. Their addition comes almost exactly five years after the first of the “Gilgo Four” was found.
July 23, 2016
Shannan Gilbert’s mother, who is credited for the discovery of the Gilgo bodies because of how she pushed for her daughter’s search, is found stabbed to death in her apartment. Mari Gilbert was 52 years old. Her daughter, Sarra Elizabeth Gilbert, was charged in her death.
January 16, 2020
Police release photos of a belt imprinted with the letters “H-M” or “M-H” to the public. The belt was found at one of the crime scenes near Gilgo Beach. Police say they believe the belt was handled by the suspect.
May 22, 2020
Jane Doe Number 6/Manorville Jane Doe is identified as Valerie Mack, a 24-year-old sex worker from Philadelphia. She was last seen in the spring of 2000 near Atlantic City, and months later her partial remains were found in Manorville. Eleven years later, the rest of her remains were discovered at Gilgo Beach. Mack had never been officially reported as a missing person. Investigators were able to identify Mack after being given the green light to use genetic genealogy to identify remains.
February 15, 2022
After less than a year on the job, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison announces a new task force to investigate the Gilgo Beach murders, bringing investigators from the state, county and FBI together for the first time.
May 9, 2022
Suffolk County Police release a 22-minute 911 phone call from Gilbert the night she disappeared in 2010.
After over a decade with no suspects, an arrest is made.
July 13, 2023
Rex Heuermann is arrested in Midtown, Manhattan. He is charged in the deaths of Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello and Melissa Barthelemy. Investigators also name him as the prime suspect in the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
August 4, 2023
Authorities identify Jane Doe No. 7, whose remains were found on Fire Island in 1996, as 34-year-old Karen Vergata. The remains were later linked by DNA to other human remains found along Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach in 2011.
This story was last updated on August, 14.
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