Gilgo Beach murder suspect ordered to release DNA sample

Posted at 11:17 AM, August 10, 2023


A New York judge has ordered Rex Heuermann to submit a sample of his DNA, granting the prosecution’s request for a swab. Judge Timothy Mazzei ruled that probable cause exists that Heuermann committed at least some of the Gilgo Beach killings.

left, pizza box with paper plate and pizza crusts, right selfie of Rex Heuermann

Rex Heuermann is charged in the deaths of three women whose bodies were found at Gilgo Beach.

Earlier this week, Heuermann’s defense team filed arguments opposing the prosecution’s request, saying they failed to show probable cause connecting Heuermann to a DNA sample taken from crust found in a discarded pizza box outside his office.

In his decision, Judge Mazzei wrote:

“The Court finds that contrary to the defendant’s contentions, there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crimes charged and, therefore, a basis to compel the buccal swab.”

A buccal swab or smear is the relatively non-invasive means by which a person’s DNA is collected from cells on the inside of their cheek. Heuermann will be able to have his DNA sample taken in the presence of his attorney.

Judge Mazzei further stated that a comparison of Heuermann’s direct DNA sample with the mitochondrial sample from a hair recovered from one of the victims as well as the DNA that was found on the pizza crust “will yield probative material evidence, whether it is inculpatory or not.”

Gilgo beach murder victims

This combination of undated image provided by the Suffolk County Police Department, shows Melissa Barthelemy, top left, Amber Costello, top right, Megan Waterman, bottom left, and Maureen Brainard-Barnes.  (Suffolk County Police Department via AP)

Direct DNA samples can be entered into statewide and nationwide databases. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cannot. The reason mtDNA can’t be entered into the databases is because it can’t be used to make a unique identification. Mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited, and it is possible for several individuals to have the same mtDNA type.

Heuermann was arrested on July 13 for the murders of three women whose remains were found near Gilgo Beach on Long Island in 2010: Megan Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. The victims were all sex workers. Heuermann is also the lead suspect in a fourth homicide, that of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, although charges are still pending.

Heuermann, a married father who lived in Massapequa Park on Long Island and worked as an architect in Manhattan, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

A massive search of Heuermann’s home netted over 200 firearms and a walk-in vault. Police are also looking into whether Heuermann may be connected to crimes in other states.