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Reflections on the Long Island Serial Killer Arrest

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

The sex work community breathed a sigh of relief when news of the arrest of a suspect in the Long Island Gilgo Beach murders was arrested. Police found loads of evidence and information related to Rex Heuermann, who was arrested and charged with murder in the killings of three of the “Gilgo Four,” a group of women whose remains were unearthed near Long Island’s Gilgo Beach in 2010. There are more victims credited to this killer - as many as 14 - and for sex workers in New York, knowing that a predator is off the streets is a wonderful thing. In her podcast called Unraveled LISK (Long Island Serial Killer), Alexis Linkletter - who has been covering the story for over eight years - tells the stories of some of the the young women who found themselves to be the target of yet another predator and carefully covers the story during the 48 hours after the arrest. And indeed, the arrest is only the beginning.

This story has been high on the radar for activists in the Northeast as well. Bella Robinson from Coyote Rhode Island has been following the story very closely since 2010 and her perspective and knowledge about the case, combined with her lived experience as an online sex worker during the days of the Backpage Killer, Anthony Little and now the man accused of the Long Island Gilgo Beach Four, make her the perfect person to give insight to the stories, the investigation and the way that this case will move forward.

“But why did it take so long for there to be any movement on these murders? How did he get away with it for so long?” -Bella Robinson, Coyote Rhode Island

Until his arrest last week, prosecutors say Heuermann was living a double life - using burner phones and anonymous email accounts to arrange sex, and to search for child sexual abuse materials while raising a daughter and step-son and commuting into New York City for work. Authorities in Nevada are also investigating a connection between the accused Long Island serial killer and Las Vegas. Some New York City Cops are trying to see if Heuermann's DNA - obtained from pizza crust he disposed of and linked to genetic material found on a Gilgo Beach victim's remains - connected him to other unsolved cases and determine whether they should be searching any locations in Vegas where he held a timeshare property, or if they are able to connect him to other unsolved cases in New York, Nevada and New Jersey.

The media seems eager to talk to sex workers but they are decidedly unsure how to refer to us. Short news clips don’t really give a full understanding of the complicated nuance or our lives or the circumstances. Law enforcement was able to speak to incarcerated sex workers and use the information they shared about the alleged perpetrator of these violent acts to identify and gather evidence but it's unclear how they identified the incarcerated workers (or “individuals involved in sex trafficking”), per some reports. We can only assume that once again, our many vulnerabilities make us easy prey for both predators and Law Enforcement.

Bella Robinson from Coyote Rhode Island and Maxine Doogan from Espler had a riveting conversation about the Gilgo Beach murders, arrest of a suspect and the complications surrounding it and we are thrilled to be able to share it with you!

How the Story Started

The Gilgo Beach case has drawn immense public attention since human remains were found along a New York beach highway more than a decade ago. The mystery attracted national headlines for many years and the unsolved killings were the subject of the 2020 Netflix film "Lost Girls".

The deaths of 11 people whose remains were found in 2010 and 2011 have long stumped investigators. Most of the victims were young women who had been sex workers. Several of the bodies were found in thickets along a sandy stretch known as Gilgo Beach. Months later, a police officer and his cadaver dog were looking for the body of a missing woman 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. In spite of the close proximity of the locations where the victims were found, when 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 because its just unfathomable that a privileged and protected community such as Gilgo Beach could have hosted a serial killer for such a long time or have their community inextricably linked to prostitution, sex parties and child sexual abuse material.

Our community knows that there will be more victims linked to the Long Island Serial Killer as time passes and history has demonstrated quite clearly that these kinds of predators hunt often and carelessly because people who trade sex are considered disposable. We are invisible until law enforcement is looking for a tip or the media needs a soundbite. Our reluctance to report violence against ourselves, and our collective horror at becoming a victim of one of these predators is unfathomable to most people. Almost all of the sex workers we talked to quite freely admitted they would probably have agreed to a date from this potential client and there was really nothing noteworthy about him that would have set off any red flags during the screening process.

As we approach the 20th Anniversary Memorial of International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th, 2023, we want to be sure that we are honoring the lives that were lost, not only in the past year, but in the past 2 centuries. Coyote Rhode Island will be hosting their annual online event and the master list that they have maintained over the past two decades will be available to community members who recognize this annual memorial event. You can add names of your loved ones to the global list of sex workers who have been lost to violence this past year here. We look forward to seeing the love and attention that is showered on our fallen comrades on this difficult day.

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