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Police investigate new statements tying Long Island serial killer suspect to more victims

Accused Gilgo Beach killer Rex A. Heuermann appears before Judge Timothy P. Mazzei in Suffolk County Court on Tuesday, August 1, 2023.
James Carbone
Accused Gilgo Beach killer Rex A. Heuermann appears before Judge Timothy P. Mazzei in Suffolk County Court on Tuesday, August 1, 2023.

The Suffolk County police commissioner said new witnesses have connected the suspect in the Long Island serial killer investigation to two more victims that were discovered along Ocean Parkway.

Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said he’s investigating claims from the witnesses who link suspect Rex Heuermann to Karen Vergata, previously known as Fire Island Jane Doe, and to Shannan Gilbert, the sex worker whose disappearance led to the discovery of at least 10 sets of remains more than a decade ago.

“It's something that we need to take a closer look at, and we need to make sure we're investigating it," Harrison said, adding that he personally interviewed one of the witnesses. "And that's why the task force will stay in place. That's why we added more manpower to it.”

Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the cases of Melissa Barthelemy, Amber Costello and Megan Waterman.

The witnesses

Two women gave sworn statements to John Ray, an attorney who represents some of the victims' families.

The first witness claims she worked as a taxi driver in 2009 and believes she encountered Rex Heuermann and Shannan Gilbert at the Sayville Motor Lodge. She said she called the police tip line twice after Heuermann's arrest this summer but never heard back.

The second witness said she is a former swinger. She claims that she, her boyfriend and Karen Vergata (formerly known as Fire Island Jane Doe and Jane Doe Number 7) traveled from New York City to Heuermann's home in Massapequa Park in 1996 for a sex party.

The fallout

Ray detailed the claims in the two witness statements alongside Harrison at a news conference on Wednesday. Ray said the witnesses contacted him directly.

Harrison said the investigation is ongoing.

"If people have a reluctancy to come forward to law enforcement and they want to go to John Ray, then it's important that we take this information and then we follow forward with furthering the investigation," Harrison said.

The comments took Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney by surprise. In a statement, Tierney said there are no private attorneys on the task force and urged tipsters to contact his office.

"Without providing any advance notice to the prosecutors pursuing this case in court or the Gilgo Beach Homicide Task Force members investigating these murders day in and day out, we watched today’s press conference not knowing what was going to be reported," the statement said. "We will continue to investigate this case through the grand jury process and not through press conferences."

In a rare move, Tierney announced this summer that he will prosecute the case against Heuermann himself.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.