Black police commissioner of Suffolk County solves 13-year-old cold case murders of sex workers

The arrest of Rex Heuermann, an architect, who has been charged with the murders of three women and possibly a fourth, is being credited to a new police chief who made finding the killer in a long-closed case a priority.

Rodney Harrison, the new police commissioner of Suffolk County and the former chief of detective of the New York City Police Department inherited the 13-year-old cold case, which was the most unsolved serial murder in the country. Harrison was named police commissioner on December 21, 2021. Most of the killings occurred on Gilgo Beach.

It took Harrison only two weeks to move the care forward leaving residents to wonder why police in their community could not have done better and sooner. 

One thought many held was that the police did not care about solving the cases because the murdered women were sex workers who met their sad fates because of the work they chose to do.

Dominick Varrone, the chief of detectives for Suffolk County Police Department, suggested that the killer killed sex workers and that ‘good’ people could relax.

Residents also suspected that local police were involved in the murders.

Harrison is hailed for revamping the Suffolk PD and lighting a fire under the 13-year-old Gilgo Beach investigation where bodies were found. 

“We have 11 bodies all together,†he said. “You take out Shannan Gilbert. We were able to say that that was a horrible accident. We don’t believe that that was part of the murders.†She may have drowned in an accident.

Police arrested Heuermann for the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, 24, Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, and Megan Waterman, 22. All of the victims’ bodies were wrapped in burlap bags.

Heuermann, 59, who lives in Massapequa Park, N.Y., was identified through DNA evidence. He also used “burner phones†to call and taunt the relatives of his victims. 

Heuermann lived near Gilgo Beach, which is a community on Long Island, New York.

He was arrested in an office in Midtown Manhattan Thursday. 

He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the killings of Costello, Waterman, and Barthelemy. Brainard-Barnes who went missing in July 2007 was found near the bodies of the others.