The Gilgo Beach killings suspect's wife unknowingly helped in his arrest. She's now filed for divorce


In her more than 27 years of marriage to Rex Heuermann, Asa Ellerup likely did not know about the gruesome double life her husband is accused of living, Suffolk County’s top cop says.

“If you ask me, I don’t believe, that they knew about this double life that Mr. Heuermann was living,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said of the suspect’s family.

But authorities were not ruling anything out yet and were continuing to collect information “to see if the family might have known exactly what Mr. Heuermann was up to,” Harrison told CNN’s Erica Hill in a July 2023 interview.

That month, Heuermann was arrested and charged with murder in connection to the killings of three of the “Gilgo Four,” a group of four women whose remains were found along a short stretch of Long Island’s Gilgo Beach in 2010. He also was identified as the prime suspect in the disappearance and killing of the fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, who was 25 years old when she was last seen. He was charged with her murder in January and pleaded not guilty.

Heuermann, 60, was indicted on two new murder charges Thursday: second-degree murder in the 2003 death of Jessica Taylor and the 1993 death of Sandra Costilla, according to a bail application.

Taylor’s remains were discovered in Manorville in 2003 and then additional remains along Ocean Parkway on Gilgo Beach in 2011. Costilla’s remains were found in North Sea in 1993 by two hunters who were in the woods, according to the bail application.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Less than a week after her husband’s arrest, Ellerup filed for divorce, her attorney Robert Macedonio told CNN. He did not comment further on the matter.

She was shocked to hear what her husband is accused of, Harrison said.

But she unknowingly played a key role in her husband’s arrest: it was her DNA, among other evidence, that authorities say helped tie Heuermann to the crimes.

Here’s what we know about his wife, their life together and the unexpected role she played in the case.

Heuermann and Ellerup were married in April 1996, the suspect said in a 2018 deposition. Since then, they lived in Heuermann’s red and green childhood home in the Long Island suburb of Massapequa Park with their daughter and Heuermann’s stepson.

But despite their long stint in the neighborhood – and though Heuermann’s life was long rooted in the same community, neighbors knew little detail about the family.

Neighbors described the home as creepy and the family as distant, according to the Long Island Press, a monthly magazine serving Long Island.

“The family is very to themselves, quiet,” neighbor Frankie Musto told the publication. “We never saw anything suspicious.”

In his 2018 deposition, Heuermann said he had been married once before. That marriage, he said, lasted three years and they had no children.

Authorities search Heuermann's home on July 18, 2023, in Massapequa Park, New York.

When the victims were first discovered, there were pieces of degraded hair recovered by authorities – but DNA testing at the time could not provide the answers investigators hoped for.

Technological improvements soon helped yield results.

Hair that is now believed to belong to Ellerup – which presumably had been unintentionally carried by the suspect on his clothes – was found on or near the three victims, prosecutors alleged in the bail application, citing DNA testing.

That DNA came from 11 bottles inside a garbage can outside the Heuermann home, the court document says. Authorities had been surveilling Heuermann and his family for months after they identified him as a suspect in early 2022, and during that time collected DNA samples from items the family threw away.

Though her hair was found with the victims, Ellerup and their daughter were both traveling when the killings were committed and Heuermann was “alone in the tri-state area,” Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said at a news conference last summer.

“It’s very significant in as much as it then limits it down to him,” criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson told CNN’s Jake Tapper about the finding. “If the suspect’s wife is out of town, then why would her hair be there if he’s in town?”

Suffolk County authorities say DNA evidence also linked Heuermann to a male hair found on the burlap sack where one victim’s remains were found.

Harrison told CNN last summer he was informed that once authorities told Ellerup and her daughter about the crimes Heuermann is accused of, the two were “shocked, they were disgusted, they were embarrassed.”

Their reaction, he said, is why he believes they were not aware of what he was doing.

“But, time will tell,” he added. “And once again, there are still a lot more questions that need to be done to the family and friends.”

CNN has made multiple attempts to contact Heuermann’s wife and daughter.

The attorneys representing Ellerup said last July she and her family “are going through a devastating time in their lives” and are asking for privacy.

“The sensitive nature of her husband’s arrest is taking an emotional toll on the immediate and extended family, especially their elderly family members,” said a statement from the Macedonio & Duncan law firm. “Ms. Ellerup does not wish to comment further and has requested the public and press to please respect the family’s privacy at this time.”

Following his arrest, Heuermann was remanded without bail. He entered a not guilty plea through his attorney.


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