MASSAPEQUA PARK, Long Island (WABC) — Police have begun digging in the backyard of Rex Heuermann, the Massapequa Park man charged in the Gilgo Beach murders.
Investigators believe some of the victims may have been killed in the 59-year-old architect’s home, but they have not found the evidence to prove that. That is why officials spent this past weekend with excavating equipment and police dogs in Heuermann’s backyard.
The equipment is likely being used to determine if someone or something is buried underground. Police have not said whether they have found anything yet.
On Monday morning, NewsCopter 7 video showed Heuermann’s backyard completely turned over.
WATCH: NewsCopter 7 over Rex Heuermann’s backyard
Heuermann was arrested a little over a week ago in Manhattan and charged with murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello. DNA evidence has tied him to the killings, but Heuermann has pleaded not guilty.
Officials say he is the main suspect in the death of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, as well, whose remains were also found along a short stretch of Gilgo Beach in 2010.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison says investigators are still combing through a lot of items in Heuermann’s house.
“The task force that we’ve put together still has their sleeves rolled up. We are not at a place where the investigation is finished,” Harrison said. “I’ve been an investigator for a long period of time now. These cases do not get solved easily. There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together.”
Officials say the Gilgo Beach murder victims disappeared when Heuermann’s family was out of town, suggesting he could have lured the women. Investigators have found tape and burlap bags at the crime scene.
Police estimate the search could carry on for a number of days.
Meanwhile, unsolved murders and missing persons cases “around the nation” are getting a second look.
That includes the 2006 killings of four women working as prostitutes in Atlantic City. Their bodies were found in a watery ditch along Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
Police in Las Vegas, where Heuermann owned a timeshare, said this week they are also looking at possible connections to unsolved cases.
“We are working with partner law enforcement agencies, obviously the FBI continues to be engaged, to see if there are any other connections that need to be made,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday. “I can tell you this: the investigation continues. We will remain and our police department will remain focused on bringing justice for our other victims.”
Until his arrest last week, prosecutors say Heuermann was living a double life — using burner phones and anonymous email accounts to arrange sex and search for child pornography while raising a daughter and step-son and commuting into New York City for work.
On Wednesday, Heuermann’s wife filed for divorce in Suffolk County Supreme Court. The docket states that the divorce will be “uncontested.”
His wife’s attorney released the following statement:
“As you can imagine, our client and her family are going through a devastating time in their lives. The sensitive nature of her husband’s arrest is taking an emotional toll on the immediate and extended family, especially their elderly family members. 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.”
Investigators have been talking to the sex workers about possible interactions with the suspect as authorities work to develop a more complete picture of his movements and methods.
Two sex workers currently in Suffolk County Jail had prior contact with Heuermann and have audio recordings of him, according to the sheriff’s office. The two interacted with him through various social media platforms.
“He had reached out to them for sex,” Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon said. “They had took the calls but fortunately, they did not meet with him.”
Investigators are also talking to other sex workers in Suffolk County Jail, seeking anyone else who interacted with Heuermann in the past. That could expand to jails in neighboring counties and beyond.
Once Heuermann was identified as a suspect in the Gilgo Beach deaths, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office shared his distinctive physical description with inmates they knew were involved in sex trafficking. They could not share a photo of him at that time, due to the sensitivity of the investigation.
They also went through Heuermann’s phone records, and realized the two sex workers serving time in the jail had previously been contacted by him. They were interviewed and provided the audio recordings.
After Heuermann was arrested, members of the jail’s human trafficking unit were then cleared to show his photo to current inmates to see if any of them had contact with him. They are also reaching out to sex trafficking victims no longer in custody.
Two of Heuermann’s Chevy Avalanches are also being examined for evidence.
The first, a newer black Avalanche, was towed from his Massapequa Park property Friday. The second, an older green Avalanche, was recovered on his property in South Carolina and towed by a New York State Police flatbed to New York, where it arrived at the Suffolk County Crime Lab at 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Harrison says Heuermann owned the vehicle at the time of the murders of three women whose bodies were dumped along Gilgo Beach.
He says they are looking for anything that will help authorities connect the victims to that vehicle.
“Anything from hair, to trophies, to souvenirs, to jewelry,” Harrison said.
WATCH | Rodney Harrison delves deeper into Gilgo Beach murder investigation
Since his arrest, Heuermann has been on suicide watch at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility, according to a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. The designation, which requires “high security measures” and close observation, came following an evaluation by county medical staff, according to the spokesperson, Vicki DiStefano.
Toulon spoke with Heuermann inside the correctional facility.
“I have spoken to him once. He’s very calm, all three times, he’s been laying down on his bunk, very nondescript showing no emotion,” Toulon said.
The charges against Heuermann were a remarkable development in one of New York’s most notorious mysteries.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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