Investigators were spotted digging up the backyard of Rex Heuermann’s home, with reports suggesting that the suspected Gilgo Beach serial killer may have killed at least one victim in his basement.
Search parties Sunday conducted what they called a “major excavation” at the one-story home in Massapequa Park on Long Island where the 59-year-old architect lived with his wife and two adult children. In addition to excavating Mr. Heuermann’s backyard, investigators also searched a vault with a “large iron door.” They described the search as “fruitful”.
cadaver dogs and a ground penetrating radar were used to scan the ground before excavators were seen digging up the earth with a backhoe.
At some point a huge wooden deck was dismantled and a blue tent erected to shield the search from onlookers.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said abc news that they were operating on the assumption that the victims accused of Mr. Heuermann’s murder died in the home. Mr Harrison said he expects the search and seizure operation to be completed later this week.
Not only did the killed women’s phone ring near the Massapequa home, but according to phone records, Mr. Heuermann’s family were said to be absent at the time of the disappearance. However, no concrete evidence had been found, Mr Harrison said.
“Can we confirm that someone was killed in the house? We can’t confirm that at this time,” he told the outlet.
A neighbor told it The New York Post On Sunday, police said authorities found a soundproof room in the basement of the house and that Mr Heuermann is believed to have killed at least one of his victims down there.
“He has a soundproof room in his basement,” said Robert Musto, a 64-year-old longtime neighbor, local police told him.
“What do you think that was for? They say there’s evidence he killed at least one of the girls down there.
“The police will find out all of this. They said they’re focusing on the soundproof room in the basement, but they’re going to look at everything.”
A former colleague confirmed to the newspaper the existence of a soundproof basement and claimed the accused serial killer once took time off work to carry out the bizarre construction of the vault in his family home.
The person, who was not named, recalled that Mr. Heuermann had built the concrete-lined vault, which is about two to three feet thick.
“It’s not just a hidden room — it’s a serious vault,” they said.
“It had a huge, sturdy vault door. He went and poured new concrete walls, huge amounts of concrete to encase this space. It was maybe 2 or 3 feet thick.”
Officials are exploring the possibility that the accused serial killer killed the victims at his family’s home. His wife and two children were out of town at the time of each of the three alleged murders.
Law enforcement sources previously told CNN that there was a vault of sorts in the basement of the Massapequa Park home – and that a hoard of up to 300 firearms was found inside.
The married father of two had 92 legal gun permits, police said, and was an avid hunter.
In the 11 days since Mr Heuermann was arrested in connection with the infamous serial killer case, investigators have searched for evidence linking him to the killings, including trophies taken from victims.
In addition to conducting a thorough search of his home, officers are also searching other locations linked to the accused killer, including storage facilities two miles away in Amityville.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies are also investigating unsolved homicides and missing persons cases across America, including in Las Vegas, South Carolina and Atlantic City.
Over in South Carolina, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office said they were looking for evidence to help New York officials.
“The Chester County Sheriff’s Office has been asked by the Gilgo Beach Task Force to assist in gathering evidence in Chester County relevant to their investigation,” the department tweeted.
Mr Heuermann owns property in Chester alongside his brother Craig. The pickup truck at the center of the murder investigation was seized from his brother’s home last week.
Mr. Heuermann was arrested on the night of July 13 when a team of officers rushed him as he was exiting his midtown Manhattan office where he ran an architectural practice.
He was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Costello.
He is also the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes – known along with the three as the “Gilgo Beach Four” and was last seen alive in New York City in early June 2007.
The four women were found within a quarter mile of each other, bound with belts or tape and some wrapped in burlap – their bodies dumped at Gilgo Beach.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held without bail.
Court documents show that Mr. Heuermann was linked to the killings through a pimp’s tip about his pickup truck, a stash of cellphones, “sadistic” online searches, phone calls mocking the victims’ families, his wife’s hair found on the victims’ bodies, and a pizza crust.
The first piece of the puzzle came when a witness in the Amber Costello case revealed details about a vehicle a client was driving when she was last seen alive.
Costello, who worked as a sex worker, was seen alive on the evening of September 2, 2010 leaving her home in West Babylon. A witness said she drove to a customer who was driving a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche.
Last year, a registry search revealed that local resident Mr. Heuermann owned a first-generation model of the truck at the time of Costello’s disappearance. He also matched the witness’ description of the man believed to be the killer: a tall, white “ogre”-like man in his 40s, about 6 to 6 feet tall, with “dark, bushy hair” and “large 1970s-style oval glasses.”
The car’s discovery prompted investigators to investigate Mr. Heuermann more intensively, including completing 300 subpoenas, search warrants and other legal actions to obtain evidence of his possible involvement in the murders.
This also included Mr. Heuermann’s alleged use of burner telephones. Prosecutors said he used burner phones to contact the three women and set up a meeting with them at the time they went missing.
He also reportedly took two of the victims’ cell phones – and used one to make taunting calls to one of their families, in which court documents say he boasted about their murder.
Mr. Heuermann’s DNA was found on one of the victims, and his wife’s hair was found on three of the four women he is associated with.
His arrest comes after the horrifying case of a serial killer has captured the nation’s attention for more than a decade.
The Gilgo Beach murders had long baffled law enforcement in Suffolk County. They believed it could be the work of one or more serial killers who targeted sex workers and dumped their bodies on the secluded beaches off Ocean Parkway.
The case began in May 2010 when Shannan Gilbert disappeared after walking from a client’s home near Gilgo Beach.
She called 911 for help, saying she feared for her life and was never seen alive again.
While searching for Gilbert in the dense thicket near the beach, police discovered the remains of another woman.
Within days, the remains of three other victims were found nearby.
By spring 2011, the remains of a total of ten victims had been found, including eight women, a man and an infant. Police have long suspected it could be the work of one or more serial killers.
Gilbert’s body was then found in December 2011. Her cause of death is widely disputed, as authorities have long claimed that she was not connected to the serial killer or killers, but that she died by accidental drowning while fleeing the client’s home.
However, an independent autopsy commissioned by her family found she died from strangulation and her mother believes she was murdered.
As with Gilbert, most of the target victims were sex workers, while some have not yet been identified.