By LAUREN SILVER
SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y. (Court TV) — The attorney representing the family of a victim found murdered on Gilgo Beach joined the Suffolk County police commissioner in announcing new evidence linking the suspect charged with the murders of three women whose bodies were found along the remote beach highway to two additional victims.
Rex Heuermann, 60, is charged with murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello, all of whom were found on Gilgo Beach. He has also publicly been named as the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes but has not been charged in her death. Heuermann has pleaded not guilty.
Attorney John Ray has represented the family of Shannan Gilbert, a woman whose body was found in a coastal marsh near the other women. It was the search for Gilbert that led to the discovery of 10 sets of remains, including eight women, on Gilgo Beach. Police have never publicly connected Gilbert’s death to Heuermann.
On Wednesday, Ray held a press conference alongside Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison, where he revealed that additional witnesses have come forward that connect Heuermann to Gilbert as well as Karen Vergata, whose body was identified in August.
Two witness affidavits were shared with the media at the press conference, both of which were taken by Ray. Neither witness was identified by name.
The first witness, described as a taxi driver in Suffolk County, said that she had been dispatched to a bar in October 2009 where she was supposed to pick up a person named “Matt.” Upon arriving, the driver saw “an extraordinarily large man” who approached the vehicle. After getting into the cab, “Matt” told the driver, “We’re going for a long ride in the woods” and said that they needed to pick up a woman at a house across the street. The driver said that she could see a girl in the window of the house, but refused to take the trip without clearing it with the dispatcher.
“As we argued, he said to me that he wanted to kill me if I would just give him a reason to do so. He insisted he wanted to kill me. I heard him click a gun.”
The driver’s dispatcher called the police and the driver refused to move the car, prompting the man to get out of the car, where he then went into the woods nearby and shot his gun twice. The witness told Ray that upon recently seeing Rex Heuermann on TV, they realized it was the same man who had been in their cab years prior.
The same driver also said in the affidavit that several weeks before picking up “Matt” she was dispatched to the Sayville Motor Lodge to pick up a woman who had locked herself in a bathroom and asked for a female driver. She said a man came out of the motel room before the woman, who she described as “petite” and “crying and shaking.” She said the man had frightened her, and the driver later realized after watching TV that the woman was Shannan Gilbert.
A second affidavit came from a woman who says she was a “former swinger,” which she defined as “a person who partners with another person, then that partnership has sex with other partners or groups of partners.” She said that she was partnered with a New York police officer at the time, referred to as “RW,” stationed in Brooklyn. She said that one night the two of them went to a swingers’ party at the Heuermann home hosted by Rex and his wife, Asa.
On the way to the party, the pair stopped to pick up a woman who she now believes was Karen Vergata. She said the woman was “hungry and homeless” and sat in the back of the car as they went to the Heuermanns’ home. The witness told the woman that because her partner was an officer, she was safe and could shower and eat at the couple’s home.
But when the couple went to leave, leaving the woman behind, the witness became uneasy.
“I saw the face of the woman I believe the be Karen, up against a window at the house. She looked scared. I had a sense that she was calling for help. I told RW of this. The woman I believe to be Karen suddenly ran outside, naked, and ran about by the garage. RW had gone to the back of the house to look for his belt, but he was then back in the car. RW told me not to worry about her, that she was ok, they were only playing a game. We left without her. I felt uneasy that we left without the woman.”
The witness said she later saw Rex Heuermann on TV and recognized him, as well as a photo of Karen Vergata that she identified as the woman she brought to Heuermann’s home. “I was shocked, and deeply sorrowful for having left her behind at Heuermann’s house. I told John Ray of these things because I needed to speak with him so that Karen would not be left behind again.”
Ray offered himself as available to any other potential witnesses who could have information about the case.
In a statement after Ray’s news conference, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said that Ray was not a member of the Gilgo Beach Homicide Task Force and that none of the prosecutors had received any advance notice about the affidavits. Additionally, Tierney said, “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. Those agencies are the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Homicide Bureau, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. … 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.”