Secluded wooded area near Gilgo Beach suspect’s home could hide more bodies: cold case expert

A secluded stretch of woods blocks from the home of the alleged Gilgo Beach killer could be harboring more bodies, says a former NYPD cold case detective who is urging investigators to comb the area with cadaver dogs.

The Massapequa Preserve is a 430-acre expanse of trails that stretches six miles from Merrick Road to the Southern State Parkway — and is a short walk from the home of accused serial killer Rex Heuermann.

It connects to the low-lit, two-lane Bethpage State Parkway to the north.

“There is this long, dark road that you can take and you could just pull off on the side of the road, do what you got to do, get back in the car and go,” said Joseph Giacalone, a retired sergeant from Long Island and author of “The Cold Case Handbook.” 

“No cameras, nothing like that. No traffic lights. It’s an ideal place,” Giacalone, who is also a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The Post.

The Massapequa Preserve is a 400-acre stretch of wooded trails on Long Island.

Rex Heuermann in court.
Rex Heuemann was charged with three of the four “Gilgo Four” murders.

The area is secluded and overgrown like Ocean Parkway, where the bodies of three women Heuermann is accused of killing were found in the brush in 2010, and where more than 10 sets of remains were discovered through 2011.

“Usually serial killers have a cool-off period, but not 10 or 11 years,” said Giacalone.

“It would be kind of unheard of. So it would mean to me that the person would have to find a new place to dispose of his bodies.”

Who were the Gilgo Beach victims?

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.

Melissa Barthelemy, 24

  • Barthelemy was a sex worker who lived in the Unionport section of the Bronx and dreamed of one day opening her own beauty salon. She was last seen alive in her basement apartment on Underhill Avenue on July 12, 2009.

Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25

  • Brainard-Barnes was living in Norwich, Connecticut. She went missing after taking an Amtrak train from New London, Connecticut, to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan on July 6, 2007.

Amber Lynn Costello, 27

  • Costello, 27, was a sex worker and heroin addict who lived in West Babylon, New York, at a home with a woman and two men. She advertised on Craigslist and Backpage to support her and her roommates’ drug habits. Costello was found in December 2010 after having been last seen leaving her home that September.

Megan Waterman, 22

  • Waterman, a 22-year-old mom of one, was last seen on June 6, 2010. She lived in Scarborough, Maine, and earned a living as an escort. She was last seen by her family boarding a New York-bound Concord Trailways bus in Maine. Her body was found on December 13, 2010, on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach.

Jessica Taylor, 20

  • Remains belonging to Jessica Taylor, a 20-year-old woman working as an escort in New York City, were found in a wooded area in Manorville on July 26, 2003. Her additional remains — initially labeled “Jane Doe No. 5” — were discovered on March 29, 2011, along Ocean Parkway.

Valerie Mack, 24

  • Valerie Mack was 24 years old and living in Philadelphia when she went missing. She worked as an escort, using the alias “Melissa Taylor.” Relatives last saw Mack in the spring or summer of 2000 in Port Republic, New Jersey, but she was never reported as missing to the police. Her partial skeletal remains were found in Manorville in September 2000 but were initially known as “Jane Doe No. 6.”

Unidentified Asian man

  • The skeletal remains of a yet-to-be-identified Asian man were found along Ocean Parkway on April 4, 2011. It is estimated that the man was between 17 and 23 years old at the time of his death. He was approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall with bad teeth.

‘Peaches’ and her daughter

  • An African American woman’s partial remains were discovered in Hempstead Lake State Park back in 1997, and she had become known as “Peaches” because of a bitten tattoo of a peach on her left breast. On April 4, 2011, police uncovered the remains of a toddler, who was about 2 years old at the time of her death. DNA testing confirmed that one of the skeletons was that of the 2-year-old girl’s mother, “Peaches.”

Karen Vergata

  • A victim previously referred to as Jane Doe No. 7 has been identified as 34-year-old Manhattan woman Karen Vergata. Vergata is believed to have disappeared around Feb. 14, 1996, two months later her legs were found in a plastic bag at a park near Fire Island’s Blue Point Beach. At the time of her disappearance, Vergata was believed to have been working as an escort.

Shannan Gilbert, 23

  • Gilbert was a Craigslist escort who lived in Jersey City, traveled with her driver Michael Pak from Manhattan to meet a client, Joseph Brewer, at his home in the Oak Beach Association on the morning of May 1, 2010. She spoke with two neighbors before disappearing. Her body was discovered in a marsh near Oak Beach — about half a mile from where she was last seen alive — on December 13, 2011.

He is not the only one to realize the location is a prime spot to dump a body.

In 2019, a decomposing corpse believed to be a victim of the MS-13 gang was found in the preserve and two years earlier, two members were charged with hacking a teen to death there.

The remains of those found along Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach in 2010 and 2011 included Amber Lynn Costello, Melissa Barthelemy, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Megan Waterman and Jessica Taylor as well as an unidentified Asian male. Their imaged are shown over an aeriel shot of Ocean Parkway.
Between 2010 and 2011, the remains of the “Gilgo Four” were found along Ocean Parkway, as well as ten other sets of remains.
Suffolk County Police Department

Heuermann, an architect and married father of two, was arrested on July 13 and charged with the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Lynn Costello, and is the prime suspect in the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes. The women make up the “Gilgo Four” and had all worked as escorts.

Heuermann’s Massapequa Park home is just half a mile from the preserve — about 15 miles from Gilgo Beach — and in the days before his arrest, a young woman reported a disturbing encounter with him at Brady Park, which borders the preserve.

Ally, a 25-year-old from Long Island, told The Post that Heuermann approached her on July 3.

Police searched the Heuermann house, pictured with a cop standing guard, for nearly two weeks after his arrest.
Police searched the Long Island home and backyard of suspected Gilgo Beach killer Rex Heuermann.
James Keivom

“He had very dirty clothes on. He popped right out of the woods. Everywhere I went in the woods he would pop out somewhere,” she said.

The encounter left her so spooked, she called her sister to pick her up and filed a police report.

She was horrified to later see Heuermann arrested in connection to the Gilgo murders.

An evidence flag staked into the ground.
Police launched a thorough search of Heuermann’s home after his arrest.
JMP/Abaca/Sipa USA

The arrest came after the Suffolk County Police Department reopened the case with a newly formed task force.

The SCPD would not say whether the preserve and parkway had been considered for investigation and could not release information on future search locations.

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