Thirteen years ago, a few strands of hair were discovered at the scene where the remains of three young women were found, hidden in the thick brush near Gilgo Beach. These hair strands, which played a vital role in finally cracking the previously unsolved case, are now anticipated to have a significant impact on the legal proceedings against Rex Heuermann, according to legal experts.
Heuermann, 59, has been charged with the murders of three of the so-called Gilgo 4 — the women found dead on Long Island’s Gilgo Beach in December 2010 — and he is also the prime suspect in the death of the fourth, as Front Page Detectives previously reported.
Former Suffolk County prosecutor Steven Wilutis said the DNA evidence against Heuermann, who has pleaded not guilty to the first- and second-degree murder charges against in the killings of Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Lynn Costello, amounts to a “prosecutor’s dream,” Newsday reported.
“It could have been somebody else picked up the hair someplace else, but on three different bodies?” Wilutis said. “I’d just put that DNA in and I’d rest [the case.]”
Legal experts told Newsday that the DNA, along with cell phone records connecting Heuermann to the women around the times they disappeared and the similarities in the way the bodies were disposed of, should be the type of evidence the prosecution will make central to their case.
The experts warned, however, that no case is a slam dunk and any skilled defense attorney will try and poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
Experts say the 13-year gap between finding the bodies and an arrest in this case, which prosecutors said have allowed for improvements in DNA testing and cellular phone data collection and analysis, could also be the biggest challenge to Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney and his team of prosecutors.
Heuermann’s lawyers are expected to question whether the degradation of the hairs over time makes the DNA evidence unreliable, Newsday reported.
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Experts also told Newsday that memories of key witnesses may have faded over time, or others may have passed away, which shrinks the pool of potential witnesses who could testify if the case goes to trial.
Tierney has called the DNA evidence “significant” and have already tried to bolster the DNA evidence against Heuermann, successfully arguing for the presiding judge in the case to order Heuermann to submit to a cheek swab for comparison, Newsday reported.
Investigators have also been working to find more evidence, which Tierney said they have seized a “voluminous” amount of potential evidence from Heuermann’s Massapequa Park home, two storage units he kept nearby, a Chevy Avalanche he used to own, His Midtown Manhattan office and other properties, according to Newsday.
Heuermann is expected back in court on Aug. 15, officials said.
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