Jun 29, 2023

Gilgo Beach victim was bound with distinctive 'WH' or 'HM' belt



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Gilgo Beach victim Maureen Brainard-Barnes’ body was bound by the distinctive belt stamped with the initials “WH” or “HM” — which could match relatives of prime suspect Rex Heuermann, the prosecutor leading the case said in a new interview.

The belt — first teased as a possible clue in 2020 — was one of three used to tie 25-year-old Brainard-Barnes’ feet, ankles and legs together, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney told Newsday on Thursday.

“Yes, there was ‘WH’ or ‘HM’ on the belt. The last name is Heuermann. There are ancestors with WH, so assign to that what you will,” Tierney said.

Although the DA did not elaborate, the initials “WH” match Heuermann’s grandfather, William Heuermann, who died in 1964.

Heuermann remains the prime suspect in Brainard-Barnes’ murder, having been charged over the other so-called “Gilgo Four” all found strewn on the Long Island beach within days in December 2010.

Tierney stressed they are still actively investigating him over her murder — with the belt central to a possible charge.

“There was a question hair that is still being tested that was removed by the buckle of the belt,” he explained, referring to the belt found binding Brainard-Barnes, who disappeared in 2007.

“One had ‘WH’ on it. One had the distal end of the belt cut off, meaning the end of the belt furthest from the buckle and it was cut off, and that would have been the section where, had there been initials on it, that’s where those initials would have been.”

Heuermann’s attorney, Michael Brown, declined to comment to Newsday on the possible connection between his client and the initialed belt.

He continued to insist on his client’s innocence, while stressing: “There’s no plea deal.”

Heuermann, 59, was arrested and charged last month with murdering Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Lynn Costello, whose remains were found near Brainard-Barnes’ in December 2010.

Tierney told Newsday that they were so terrified of Heuermann getting wind that he was being eyed that even the grand jury did not learn his name until just before the bombshell arrest.

“When we were investigating the case, we never mentioned the name, even among ourselves. It was always the subject. At most, it was RH,” he added.

“We wanted to sort of do it, set the stage, and toward the end, backload the information with regard to the defendant. We felt that would minimize the chances of leaks,” he said.

A Suffolk County grand jury is still currently empaneled to hear evidence on the case, and may be extended through next month, Tierney told Newsday.

While Tierney refused to elaborate on whether police suspect Heuermann of other murders beyond the Gilgo Four, he did confirm that the towering father of two is believed to have worked alone.

“We have no evidence that this defendant conspired or acted with any other person,” he said.

All four women are believed to have been advertising as sex workers when they vanished between 2007 and 2010.

A task force was dedicated to the cold case in February 2022. Just one month later, a state investigator identified Heuermann as a potential suspect after recognizing his first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche as the one spotted at Costello’s last known sighting, Newsday explained.

Suspected serial killer Rex Heuermann — a New York City architect and married dad of two — was arrested in connection with the long-unsolved Gilgo Beach murders. The arrest is tied to the so-called “Gilgo Four,” women found wrapped in burlap within days of each other in late 2010.

The years-long investigation that led to the arrest revolved around the discovery of more than 10 sets of human remains along Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach in Suffolk County between December 2010 and April 2011.

Most victims were petite female sex workers with green or hazel eyes. But there were also two exceptions: a 2-year-old girl and a young Asian man.

The car is now registered to Heuermann’s brother, and was picked up in South Carolina after his arrest on July 13.

Heuermann – who, internet records showed, searched for the Gilgo murders on the internet over 200 times – was finally taken into custody after DNA from a pizza box and used napkin linked him to the burlap found with Waterman’s remains.

Prosecutors are now looking to obtain a cheek swab from Heuermann to test against the mitochondrial DNA from the box and napkin, Newsday said.

During a brief hearing on Tuesday, prosecutors handed over a “massive amount” of evidence to Heuermann’s defense team.

“It’s going to be a lengthy process,” Tierney admitted to Newsday of the trial preparation.

“It would have been a fairly lengthy process if this was just a three-count murder indictment, but when you overlay 13 years of investigation, it’s a monumental amount of material, especially given the work that went into it.”

During the interview, Tierney also dismissed rumors that the Gilgo Four had been fatally shot.

In court documents filed this week, prosecutors cited the initial 2010 autopsies that said all four victims died of “homicidal asphyxia,” or strangulation.

An independent review Suffolk County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Odette Hall, however, later ruled the deaths as the result of “homicidal violence.”

“That would be highly unlikely because getting shot with a gun is a very violent thing, which almost invariably causes damage to your skeletal system, and since there was no damage to the skeletal system,” Tierney said.

Maureen Brainard-BarnesAmber Lynn CostelloMegan WatermanJessica TaylorValerie MackUnidentified Asian man‘Peaches’ and her daughterKaren VergataShannan Gilbert