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Man, 59, charged with long-unsolved killings of 3 women in Long Island, N.Y.

The Gilgo Beach killings have drawn immense public attention. The mystery attracted national headlines for many years and the unsolved deaths were the subject of the 2020 Netflix film, Lost Girls.

So-called Gilgo Beach murders attracted immense public attention, subject of 2020 Netflix film Lost Girls

Police officer stand guard near a police vehicle.

An architect from Long Island, N.Y., has been charged with murder in the deaths of three of the 11 victims in a long-unsolved string of killings, known as the Gilgo Beach murders.

Rex Heuermann, 59, has lived for decades across a bay from where the remains were found. He is charged with first- and second-degree murder in connection with the deaths of three victims: Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello. Authorities say he is also the "prime suspect" in another killing.

Heuermann was taken into custody in Massapequa, N.Y., late Thursday, near where investigators were seen searching his home Friday. He is expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon in state court.

A request for comment was left with his lawyer. Voice and email messages were left at Heuermann's Manhattan office and at possible numbers for his home and family on Friday.

Suffolk County prosecutors are asking that Heuermann be held without bail, citing the "heinous nature of these serial murders," as well as recent searches he made for sadistic materials, including sexually exploitative images of children and photos of the victims and their relatives.

This composite image shows three photos of people with their names, reading, from left to right, Amber Lynn Costello, Melissa Barthelemy and Megan Waterman.

"This is a day that is a long time in coming, and hopefully a day that will bring peace to this community and to the families — peace that has been long overdue," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said during an unrelated appearance on Long Island.

The news of an arrest came as a shock to some of the relatives after so many years waiting for a break in the case. In a text message, a sister of one victim said her family wasn't ready to speak publicly because they "really haven't had a chance to process the news today."

Heuermann lives in Massapequa Park, a community just north of South Oyster Bay and the sandy stretch known as Gilgo Beach where skeletal remains were found along a remote oceanfront highway in 2010 and 2011. The deaths have long stumped investigators. Most of the victims were young women who had been sex workers.

Netflix series drew public attention

The case has drawn immense public attention. The mystery attracted national headlines for many years and the unsolved killings were the subject of the 2020 Netflix film Lost Girls.

Determining who killed them, and why, has vexed a slew of seasoned homicide detectives through several changes in police leadership. Last year, an interagency task force aimed at solving the case was formed with investigators from the FBI, as well as state and local police departments.

People in personal protective equipment are seen outside a home.

Law enforcement personnel converged on the small red house that had been raided early Friday in the suburb about 65 kilometres east of midtown Manhattan. Dozens of residents mingled alongside police and media, watching as a half-dozen investigators in protective suits conferred outside the front porch, which was in disrepair, its roof propped up by two-by-fours.

The home belonged to a family that had long kept to themselves, neighbours said, noting that the dilapidated property seemed out of place among rows of single family homes and well-kept lawns in the small community.

"This house sticks out like a sore thumb. There were overgrown shrubs, there was always wood in front of the house," said Gabriella Libardi, a 24-year-old teacher. "It was very creepy. I wouldn't send my child there."

People gather on a street.

Barry Auslander, another neighbour, said the man who lived in the house commuted by train to New York City each morning, wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase.

"It was weird. He looked like a businessman," said Auslander. "But his house is a dump."

Heuermann, who is married with two children, is a licensed architect with a small Manhattan-based firm that, according to its website, has done store build-outs and other renovations for major retailers, offices and apartments.

Renewed police efforts

Last year, law enforcement agencies on Long Island formed a Gilgo Beach task force, showing what Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said was a renewed commitment to solving the killings.

"We're happy to see that they're finally active, the police, in accomplishing something. Let's wait and see what it all leads to," said John Ray, a lawyer for the families of two of the women whose remains were found, Shannan Gilbert and Jessica Taylor.

Gilbert's disappearance in 2010 triggered the hunt that exposed the larger mystery. A 24-year-old sex worker, she vanished after leaving a client's house on foot in the seafront community of Oak Beach, disappearing into the marsh.

Two women pose for a photo in this combination image.

Months later, a police officer and his cadaver dog were looking for her body in the thicket along nearby Ocean Parkway when they happened upon the remains of a different woman. Within days, three other bodies were found, all within a short walk of one another.

By spring 2011, that number had climbed to 10 sets of human remains — those of eight women, one man and one toddler. Some were later linked to dismembered body parts found elsewhere on Long Island, making for a puzzling crime scene that stretched from a park near the New York City limits to a resort community on Fire Island and out to far eastern Long Island.

Gilbert's body was found in December 2011, about five kilometres east of where the other 10 sets were discovered.

In talking about the bodies near Gilgo Beach, investigators have said several times over the years that it is unlikely one person killed all the victims.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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