Not far from a quiet stretch of Gilgo Beach on Long Island, New York, investigatorsof four young women. The mystery of who they were and how they got here might have stayed a secret if not for a woman named Shannan Gilbert.
FINDING THE GILGO FOUR
In the early morning hours of May 1, 2010, 23-year-old, working as an escort, .
911 OPERATOR: State Police.
SHANNAN GILBERT: Yeah, there’s somebody after me.
The call came from a neighborhood not far from Gilgo Beach.
SHANNAN GILBERT (to 911): These people are trying to kill me.
Shannan starts running, knocking on doors.
911 OPERATOR: Where are you, Shannan?
She screams. And then, nothing. Shannan was gone.
911 OPERATOR: Hello? Hello?
Dominick Varrone: K-9 … searched the area … exhaustively for Shannan Gilbert.
Dominick Varrone was chief of detectives at the Suffolk County Police Department. Months passed without a sign of the missing woman. Then, in December 2010 near Gilgo Beach, a police officer and his K-9 named Blue found human remains.
Dominick Varrone: Everyone assumed it was Shannan Gilbert.
But it wasn’t Shannan. Stunned searchers would go on to discover the remains of four other women. The women were identified as Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. Like Shannan, all were in their 20s. All were online escorts. All petite. Three of the four were wrapped in burlap — the kind you can find in hunting stores. They became known as the Gilgo Four.
Missy Cann: It’s really, really hard. …’Cause I miss her so much.
“48 Hours” has reported on this case since 2010. Over the years, we’ve secured exclusive interviews with the family and friends of the Gilgo Four. Missy Cann will never forget the wintry day when she got the devastating news.
Missy Cann: The detectives came to my house and just said that Maureen has been positively identified as one of the victims on Ocean Parkway.
Her sister, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, a mother of two, was the first to disappear, on July 9, 2007.
Missy Cann: She was very smart and very creative.
Erin Moriarty: She liked being a mom?
Missy Cann: She loved being a mom.
But life as a single mom living in Norwich, Connecticut, was difficult. Cann didn’t know it, but Maureen had turned to escort work, and that July went to New York City for a weekend to make money. On her way home, she called Missy from Penn Station in midtown Manhattan.
Missy Cann: I could hear the commotion … from the train station. … From the time that she called me, it was poof. She was gone.
She reported Maureen missing. Eventually, officers would tell Cann that after her sister’s disappearance, someone had used Maureen’s cell phone to make a call from Long Island. It wasn’t known then, but those two locations – Long Island and midtown Manhattan – would become important clues in the hunt for a serial killer.
Nearly two years to the day that Maureen vanished, 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy went missing in July 2009 – also from midtown Manhattan. Lynn Barthelemy is Melissa’s mother.
Erin Moriarty: How often do you think about Melissa?
Lynn Barthelemy: Every single minute of the day. … And It just didn’t happen to the girls. I mean it destroyed all of our families.
Melissa moved from Buffalo to New York City to work as a hairdresser. At some point, she also began working as an escort and then disappeared. About a week after she went missing, Melissa’s then-15-year-old sister, Amanda, started getting calls from Melissa’s phone.
Steven Cohen: And she answers, you know, “Melissa, where have you been?” … And this voice is saying, “Oh, this isn’t Melissa.”
Steven Cohen was the family’s lawyer at the time.
Steven Cohen: He … was taunting Amanda … and he said, “Do you know what I did to your sister?” … “I killed Melissa.”
Lynn Barthelemy: All I can say is he’s sick. And he’s going to make a mistake. And we’re going to catch him.
Those calls from Melissa’s own phone may very well have been that mistake. When police traced them, the calls placed the person they believed to be Melissa’s killer in midtown Manhattan.
The following year, Megan Waterman, the mother of a 3-year-old girl, disappeared from a hotel on Long Island.
Liliana Waterman: Part of you is, like, missing. It’s just, like, something’s always off.
“48 Hours” spoke with Megan’s daughter, Liliana, in 2020.
Liliana Waterman: I would do anything to bring her back, but I can’t and it just, like, frustrates me so bad.
Megan’s family says the 22-year-old was a creative, but troubled, young woman who loved fashion and was devoted to her daughter.
Erin Moriarty: What would you say to your mom if you could?
Liliana Waterman: I would just want to tell her that, like, I love her. … I just want her to know, like, she has a special place in my heart, no one can ever replace her.
Like the other two women, Megan disappeared in the summer. On June 6, 2010, she was working as an escort on Long Island.
Liliana Waterman: No matter what her job was … she was a person … and … she needs justice.
from a Holiday Inn Express is the last time she was seen alive — moments before she went to meet a client. Cellphone records later placed her phone in a Long Island neighborhood called Massapequa Park.
Amber Costello was the last of the Gilgo Four to disappear. She lived seven-and-a-half miles from Massapequa Park.
Dave Schaller: She used to say she was 4’11”, but she wasn’t. She was like 4’9″, you know. I mean, she was small.
Amber’s friend and former roommate, Dave Schaller, spoke with “48 Hours” in 2011.
Dave Schaller: She was an amazing person, she really was.
He says Amber was addicted to drugs and used sex work to support her habit.
Dave Schaller: But as amazing as she was, was as tormented as she was.
After Amber disappeared, police say Schaller told them about her clients. He described one of them as looking like an “ogre” and having “a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche.” On the night she went missing, Schaller says, a client offered Amber $1,500 for the night – six times her hourly rate.
Dave Schaller: This guy was so relentless. … He called several times. He was on the phone with her for quite a while each time.
He says the client got Amber, an experienced escort, to do something she never did: leave without her purse or cellphone and meet him in his car.
Dave Schaller: I walked out the front door with her. She – she gave me a hug. … She’s like, “I love ya.” And she left.
It was nearly midnight. Schaller says that when Amber left their house, she walked down the street and he never saw her again.
Schaller told “48 Hours” that he didn’t see the client’s face that night but suspects he had seen him before.
Erin Moriarty: So, this is a guy you might have seen?
Dave Schaller: Yeah, this is somebody that I seen. … I might be the — one of the only people who knows who he is.
It would be more than a decade before Schaller’s description would lead to a break in the case — and a prime suspect.
WHO IS REX HEUERMANN?
Muriel Henriquez: My co-worker called me and … she said, “Did you hear what happened to Rex?” And I’m like, “no.”
NEWS REPORT: A New York City architect charged with murder.
Muriel Henriquez: She says, “It’s Rex.” I said, “No way.”
NEWS REPORT: This house was a main focus and they brought out a lot of evidence.
Mary Shell: I just didn’t think it was real.
Mary Shell: I even thought to myself, “it’s crazy that there’s two Rex Heuermann’s out there.”
Mary Shell and Muriel Henriquez worked withand couldn’t wrap their heads around the news.
Muriel Henriquez: We never thought he would be that kind of person.
Mary Shell: It’s shocking.
In July 2023, nearly 13 years after the Gilgo Four were discovered, Suffolk County police commissioner Rodney Harrison made the announcement: authorities believe Rex Heuermann is the Long Island serial killer.
RODNEY HARRISON (news conference): Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks among us, a predator that ruined families.
The man he calls a demon is a six-foot-four architect. He’s charged with killing Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. And he is the prime suspect in the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
MICHAEL BROWN | REX HEUERMANN’S LAWYER (to reporters): What has my client told me? He told me he didn’t do this.
Heuermann was living about 20 minutes from Gilgo Beach, in Massapequa Park. It’s the very same town where Megan’s phone last connected with a cell tower. And Heuermann worked at his architectural firm in Midtown Manhattan, just blocks from where Maureen disappeared. The same area where several of the threatening calls to Melissa’s little sister were made.
NEWS CONFERENCE: The cause of death with regard to the three victims is homicidal violence.
A married man, Heuermann lived in a run-down house, and has a daughter and stepson with his second wife, Asa Ellerup. Ellerup, who was born in Iceland, would take the children to see her family there in the summers. It was during these trips and others, police believe, that Heuermann killed the women.
Erin Moriarty: You never got any kind of hint of another life?
Muriel Henriquez: No, no.
Muriel Henriquez worked at Heuermann’s company, RH Consultants & Associates, and spoke exclusively to “48 Hours.” She recalled a gift he gave her in the summer of 2007.
Muriel Henriquez (holding sweater): This is a sweater he asked his wife to bring back from a trip to Iceland.
Henriquez, who says she was touched at the time by Heuermann’s thoughtful gesture, now wonders if his wife’s absence that summer gave him an opportunity to kill Maureen Brainard-Barnes, who disappeared on July 9, 2007.
Erin Moriarty: How do you feel about this sweater now?
Muriel Henriquez: No, I’m definitely not going to wear the sweater now.
Still, she says she saw nothing alarming about the Rex Heuermann she saw daily.
Muriel Henriquez: A little bit of a nerd in a way. … he liked to talk about himself, what he knew … not a narcissist, but a little bit of a, you know, I know everything kind of guy.
Erin Moriarty: Pompous.
Muriel Henriquez: Pompous.
She remembers him running to and from job sites eating fast food on the run.
Muriel Henriquez: Pizza. That was his number one thing.
When she heard that police had recovered almost 300 firearms from a vault in Heuermann’s basement, she was surprised only by the number. She knew him as an avid hunter.
Muriel Henriquez: Going out shooting, hunting, that was his passion.
Erin Moriarty: What was it about hunting he liked?
Muriel Henriquez: I don’t know. I guess — I guess it was like, he — he liked the idea of having a prize.
Erin Moriarty: Stalking prey?
Muriel Henriquez: Stalking prey and winning. He liked to win.
And while she says it never occurred to her that Heuermann could be dangerous, she does remember a time when his tracking skills unnerved her. It was her 40th birthday and she had booked a cruise vacation.
Muriel Henriquez: “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m going to — you know, I’m going to be in the middle of the ocean. You’re not going to find me in the middle of the ocean.” … He said,” Oh, yes, I can.”
Henriquez didn’t think much of the comment, until the second day of her trip.
Muriel Henriquez: There was a white envelope under my door … it was a note from him. The note said, “I told you I could find you anywhere.”
Mary Shell: He had photos from hunting trips.
Mary Shell was just out of art school in the summer of 2010 when she worked for Heuermann. It was the same summer that both Megan Waterman and Amber Costello vanished.
Mary Shell: He would talk about the meat … in particular that bear meat could keep in the freezer for months.
Hearing authorities now say some of the victims were wrapped in a burlap that hunters often use was chilling.
Mary Shell: The burlap really got to me.
Since Heuermann’s arrest, Mary has written about her experience with him. She’s also talked to other former female employees who said they weren’t always treated with respect.
Mary Shell: He would have one of them, uh, clean the toilet if he thought the cleaning person hadn’t done a good enough job.
Erin Moriarty: A woman in the office?
Mary Shell: Yes. Mm-hmm. … he — more than once commented on women’s bodies … if someone perhaps had gained some weight, you know, that kind of — that kind of thing.
John Parisi grew up with Heuermann. He says Heuermann was bullied as a child.
John Parisi: I remember meeting Rex when I was in first or second grade. … he was a loner, not many friends. … The children were super mean to him … made fun of him and teased him.
But Parisi says he never saw Heuermann fight back.
John Parisi: He was big enough that if he got upset and started swinging, he would hurt somebody. But he never did.
As Heuermann got older, John points out, things didn’t get much better.
John Parisi: He was rejected by many girls. … we all go through that awkward stage growing up, and it seemed like that awkward stage stayed with him longer than usual.
Still, he says, many in the community find it hard to believe that Heuermann is the notorious serial killer living a double life for more than a decade.
John Parisi: People … were saying, oh my God, I can’t believe we have a serial killer in our town, and we grew up with, and we walked amongst the killer.
Another classmate of Heuermann’s, actor Billy Baldwin, took to social media when the news broke, tweeting it was “Mind-boggling.”
The awkward Long Island teenager grew up to be a confident and seemingly successful architect. Antoine Amira met and interviewed him in 2022.
REX HEUERMANN (“L’Interview”): Born and raised on Long Island … then working in Manhattan since 1987.
Antoine Amira: There’s nothing in my interview that made me think that this person in front of me is a dangerous person.
Amira is a hotel food and beverage manager in New York who loves real estate. He has a YouTube interview show called “L’Interview”where he handpicks guests whom he thinks are interesting and accomplished.
Amira says Heuermann was well known for his skill at helping companies and individuals get building permits.
REX HEUERMANN (“L’Interview”): I’m an architect, and architectural consultant, a troubleshooter.
REX HEUERMANN: When a job that should have been routine suddenly becomes not routine, I get the phone call.
ANTOINE AMIRA: Gotcha.
Antoine Amira: What really, uh, uh, stood out for me was that he — he was very, very, very smart.
And known, says Amira, for his ability to find loopholes in the rules.
Antoine Amira: He was pleased when he was doing it.
Erin Moriarty: That he could —
Antoine Amira: That he — could outwit the — the system.
But Amira says he remembers it was hard to get Heuermann to crack a smile. Not even during the signature sunglasses selfies he takes with every guest.
ANTOINE AMIRA (YouTube interview show): That’s it, folks. That was Rex.
ANTOINE AMIRA: It’s. Selfie time. Can you smile?
REX HEUERMANN: That is.
If police are right, Rex Heuerman was able to hide a life as a serial killer — and if he did, his habit of eating pizza on the go would turn out to be his undoing.
CONNECTING THE CLUES
For more than a decade after the discovery of the Gilgo Four, Rex Heuermann’s name never appeared on a suspect list until a new task force was formed with Suffolk County police commissioner Rodney Harrison and Suffolk County D.A. Ray Tierney.
Ray Tierney: In February of 2022 we formed the task force … and then a mere six weeks later …was identified for the first time.
A suspect in six weeks? So how did they do it? It turns out that buried in the original case files were a number ofthat the new task force was finally able to connect. Remember Amber’s roommate Dave Schaller?
Dave Schaller: She’s like, “I love you.” You know, she gave me a hug. … And she left.
He had told police about one of Amber’s clients and his vehicle.
Ray Tierney: Just a large, built man … and that, he was driving this, this first-generation Chevy Avalanche.
A first-generation Chevy Avalanche. With a description of an ogre-like man, and the make and model of his truck, police took a closer look at Amber’s phone records from 2010. Schaller had told them that before Amber disappeared, there was one particular client calling incessantly.
Dave Schaller: He called several times. He was on the phone with her for quite a while each time.
Police back then knew the client was using a burner phone. That’s a prepaid phone that anyone can buy and use anonymously. And they knew that Maureen, Melissa and Megan had all been in contact with burner numbers right before they disappeared.
In 2012, with the help of the FBI, they determined that most of those calls connected to cell towers inside a small area of Massapequa Park. They called it “the box.”
Erin Moriarty: So how large an area is that box?
Ray Tierney: It’s, you know, a couple of blocks within — within Massapequa Park.
The new task force began the search for a large-built man who also lived in that small area and owned a Chevy Avalanche at the time of the disappearances.
Erin Moriarty: Was there a “aha!” moment when, all of a sudden, his name came up?
Rodney Harrison: Once we were able to attach the … Avalanche inside of that Massapequa box, which then attached to Rex Heuermann, that was a moment where we said, OK, there’s something here.
The task force now had a prime suspect. And when they looked at Heuermann’s personal cellphone records, they found that his phone was in the same area as those burner phones when they were used to contact a victim in Massapequa Park or in midtown Manhattan.
RAY TIERNEY (at news conference): it was always consistent.
Tierney says this was also true for those awful calls Melissa’s family got from that man using her phone back in 2009.
Steve Cohen: He said, “Do you know what I did to your sister?” … and he said … “Well, I killed Melissa.”
The task force says that it confirmed that Heuermann does in fact use burner phones. Investigators say he had two different burner numbers in 2022, and they say they watched him put money on one of those accounts at a cellphone store in Midtown Manhattan.
And according to court papers, the team also documented three email accounts using fake names, including John Springfield, Thomas Hawk and Hunter1903a3, and all linked to those burner numbers. And prosecutors say that Heuermann was using a burner phone to send these selfies to “solicit and arrange for sexual activity.”
One of those accounts linked to Heuermann, prosecutors wrote, was used to conduct “thousands of searches related to sex workers, sadistic, torture-related pornography and child pornography.”
RAY TIERNEY (at news conference): There was a lot of torture, porn, and … depictions of women, being abused, being raped, and being killed.
Investigators also say that while they were busy watching Heuermann, Heuermann was trying to watch them — conducting searches on the task force and the Gilgo victims.
RAY TIERNEY (at news conference): Not only pictures of the victims, pictures of their relatives … their sisters, their children, and he was trying to locate those individuals.
The circumstantial evidence was building, but investigators also had physical evidence from the Gilgo Four—including one male hair that was found in the burlap used to “restrain and transport” Megan Waterman’s body. They wanted to see if they could link it to Heuermann.
Police tailed Heuermann, and when he threw outin midtown Manhattan — they pounced.
Ray Tierney: The pizza, which was … obviously very significant.
Tierney says that Heuermann’s DNA that was found on that pizza crust was consistent with a DNA profile from the hair found with Megan Waterman’s body, and that DNA profile is only found in .04 percent of the population.
Ray Tierney: That was a remarkable day. It was, you know, the weekend and, you know, you read, you get the report and you read it and then you read it again, and then you read it a third time and then you read it a fourth time, and then you start making calls.
With the DNA, the search histories and the burner phone, the team felt it was time.
Ray Tierney: When we decided to take down the case, we, you know, it was a sudden decision. … We did see him contacting a number — of sex workers … using a burner phone, which obviously is concerning.
Plainclothes officers arrested him around the corner from his office.
Rodney Harrison: I don’t think he had any clue. I don’t think he had any clue that we were onto him.
Police spent 12 days looking through Heuermann’s home, pulling those guns out of the basement, and digging in the backyard. They say it will take some time to comb through what they have now, and they were tight lipped about what they found.
REPORTER 1 (at news conference): Has the search been fruitful?
RODNEY HARRISON: Great question and the answer’s yes.
REPORTER 2: … Can you elaborate on fruitful? You said yes, it’s fruitful.
RODNEY HARRISON: There have been items that we have taken into our possession, that makes it fruitful.
And one more big piece of evidence taken into possession: a first-generation Chevy Avalanche Heuermann once used. It was sitting on property he owns in South Carolina when they recovered it.
RAY TIERNEY (at news conference): We were able to seize that Chevy Avalanche pursuant to a search warrant. And we’re certainly going to analyze that.
But there were female hairs found on some of the victim’s bodies that don’t belong to the victims. So, who do they belong to?
THE FAMILY OF A SUSPECTED SERIAL KILLER
After Rex Heuermann’s arrest, his quiet neighborhood in Massapequa Park was overrun by investigators and media, focusing intense scrutiny on the ramshackle home and its remaining residents: his stepson, Christopher Sheridan; daughter, Victoria Heuermann, and his wife more than 25 years,.
Bob Macedonio: So, their life going forward is always gonna be the wife or the children of (a) suspected serial killer. That’s what it’s gonna be from now on.
Attorney Bob Macedonio represents Ellerup, who has sincefrom Heuermann. He says she was as stunned as anyone by the accusations.
Bob Macedonio: She had no idea any of this was going on … The allegations are shocking. Nobody wants to think that they’ve been living with, sleeping next to a serial killer for the past 25 years.
As it turns out, Ellerup may have inadvertently helped focus the investigation on her husband. Investigators say they’ve identified strands of female hair that were found on two of the victims.
D.A. Ray Tierney | Suffolk County: One hair on Waterman … comes back to his wife, or the DNA profiles are consistent. And then … the DNA profile from Costello is consistent with … the wife.
Although prosecutors have evidence that Ellerup was out of town when those murders occurred, they will have to explain how those hairs got on the victims. Suffolk County D.A. Ray Tierney says it could be as simple as transfer.
Ray Tierney: You live at home with a spouse a little bit of your hair falls on your shoulder, as well as your spouse’s. Then you go out and you interact with the third party and that hair gets on them.
Ellerup has not been charged or named a suspect in any of the murders.
Erin Moriarty: You don’t believe that Rex Heuermann’s wife was involved in this in any way?
Ray Tierney: There’s no evidence to indicate that. No.
Along with the public scrutiny of Ellerup, there has also been support from people that perhaps know all too well what she’s going through. Kerri Rawson, the daughter of serial killer Dennis Rader, who named himself BTK, tweeted: “Asa and her kids are also victims.”
MELISSA MOORE (at news conference): I can tell that they are going through hell.
And from Melissa Moore, the daughter of Keith Jesperson — a serial killer known as the “Happy Face Killer” for taunting authorities with letters signed with a happy face.
BOB MACEDONIO (at news conference): She reached out immediately to myself and we put her in contact with Asa.
At a news conference, Macedonio announced Moore set up a GoFundMe page for Ellerup, which raised over $50,000. It is money he says will largely go to medical bills — Asa is battling breast and skin cancer. And because Rex Heuermann was the sole provider for the family, Macedonio says she will soon lose her health insurance.
BOB MACEDONIO (at news conference): Asa would like me to express her thanks for the support she has received. Um, she is going through a very difficult time.
Ellerup’s children have also paid a heavy price. Her daughter, Victoria, who worked for her father at the architectural consulting firm, and her son, Christopher, are both now unemployed. Ellerup struggles to support them, says Macedonio, while she’s also trying to figure out how to start over.
Erin Moriarty: How is she getting through every day?
Bob Macedonio: Honestly?
Erin Moriarty: Yeah.
Bob Macedonio: Minute by minute. … She has no one else to turn into at this time. … Family and friends have been hesitant to have her come over because they don’t want the media attention. She gets followed wherever she goes.
For the moment, she and her children continue to live in the house in Massapequa Park, which the family says was excessively damaged during. It’s a daily reminder of the unimaginable crimes her estranged husband is charged with and the investigation that continues into what else he may have done.
THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY?
Rex Heuermann, awaiting trial, is locked inside a Suffolk County jail in a 60-square-foot cell. He denies killing Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Costello — their voices now silent as the sand where they had been ruthlessly discarded.
Erin Moriarty: How sure are you as you’re sitting here now that Rex Heuermann is the Long Island serial killer?
Ray Tierney: So, we’re just at the beginning stage of this case … but we would not have brought this indictment if we weren’t confident in our case.
Rodney Harrison: He took away somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister — not just one person, multiple individuals.
Heuermann is currently the prime suspect for the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
And for investigators, an obvious question still hangs heavy: if Heuermann is a killer, are there other victims?
Erin Moriarty: I mean, isn’t there a real concern that there may be other victims out there?
Ray Tierney: Always.
Rodney Harrison: Who’s to say there’s not more bodies out there that we need to investigate?
In 2011, police did find other bodies along Ocean Parkway after finding the Gilgo Four.
There is victim number 5, Jessica Taylor – an escort who went missing in 2003.
- Another set of remains police called “Jane Doe # 6” is now identified as Valerie Mack, also working as an escort.
- Number 7: To investigators’ surprise they found a toddler girl.
- Number 8: An Asian male dressed in women’s clothing.
- Number 9: A female skull belonging to Karen Vergata, an escort who disappeared in 1996.
- Number 10: Female remains from a victim cops nicknamed Peaches because of a tattoo on her torso. Although her remains were found six miles away, police say DNA confirms Peaches is the mother of that toddler.
None of those victims have been linked to Heuermann.
Erin Moriarty: Is it that you can’t connect him yet, or you believe he probably isn’t the person who killed these other individuals?
Rodney Harrison: I don’t know.
Investigations spread to Las Vegas and South Carolina, where Heuermann owns property, with detectives there taking a fresh look at cases of missing women.
And then there is Nikkie Brass.
Nikkie Brass: I remembered him because one, he’s massive. And how many massive, like 6-foot, 5 architects work in Manhattan and live in Massapequa?
Now a hairdresser, Brass claims she may be one that got away. She told us she used to work as an escort. And while “48 Hours” cannot substantiate her story, Brass claims she can’t shake her memory of the night she says she was solicited for sex by Rex Heuermann, and says she fled the restaurant where they met.
Nikkie Brass: I had never gone anywhere and like felt, fear. My gut was telling me I needed to get away and I never had that before.
Brass says what she found most disturbing is that Heuermann himself brought up those bodies bound in burlap by Gilgo Beach.
Nikkie Brass: He wanted to, like, really get into it. Like, he asked me how I thought they could get rid of the bodies without being caught in that area. And I said, like, I’ve never been over there. … I’ve never even seen Gilgo Beach. … And his response was, well, it’s really dark and desolate.
Brass is now represented by John Ray, an attorney who is also representing Shannan Gilbert’s family. In December 2011, investigators finally found Shannan in the marsh not far from Gilgo Beach. But they don’t believe she was murdered.
Rodney Harrison: It’s an unfortunate incident, but right now we believe that she just ran into the marsh and unfortunately drowned.
A former investigator told us that he believes Shannan was high on drugs that night and says her death was an accident — something John Ray just can’t believe. While he doesn’t think Shannan was a victim of Heuermann, he does believe she was murdered and points to that 911 call.
John Ray (December 2013): It makes absolutely no sense that she’s found where she is, except that someone else put her there, or killed her there.
While questions remain about Shannan’s last hours, there’s no question she’s the reason so many families may finally be getting answers they have long waited for. “48 Hours” spoke to her sister, Sherre Gilbert, in 2011.
Sherre Gilbert: Yeah, if my sister, you know, didn’t make that 911 call … I don’t think that these other women would have been recovered yet
Now investigators hope that with an arrest they can give the victim’s families, who stood with them, a sense of justice and of peace.
Ray Tierney: I’ve gotten to know the families and I’m inspired by them, and I’m impressed by their patience.
A local legend has it that Gilgo Beach was named for a skilled fisherman called Gil, the silver-gray waters once his secret hunting ground. Today, this beach area is better known for a relentless hunter of human prey — a serial killer, whose chilling presence can still be felt in the ocean air.