An attorney said he is set to reveal “surprising evidence”; the DA says case should be investigated by law enforcement, not attorneys.

Lisa Finn's profile picture
Lisa Finn, Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff Badge

LONG ISLAND, NY — John Ray, an attorney who has been fighting for the victims of the Gilgo Beach killer and their families, has announced a symposium, where he said he will discuss “newly uncovered evidence”, and all evidence in the investigation so far.

The LISK Symposium will take place Tuesday from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Louise De Marillac Hall Auditorium at St. John’s University in Queens. Admission is free.

Ray said he will be holding the symposium to discuss “newly uncovered” and “surprising new evidence, and all evidence in the entire Gilgo/Oak Beach case. New victims will attend and speak, he said.

ay said he will set forth all evidence he has accumulated over the past 13 years, including new evidence he has acquired over the past few months since his press conference with former Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison in October.

Harrison announced in November that he would be resigning from the position, The news came just under four months after the arrest of Rex Heuermann, the suspect in the Gilgo Beach killings and just weeks after the press conference with Ray.

In October, when Ray held the press conference to announce that new evidence had been uncovered that could link Heuermann to two other women whose remains were found, although he was accompanied at the Miller Place event by Harrison — Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney issued a scathing statement about reported details in the investigation being released by an attorney, not a member of the official law enforcement task force.

Tierney blasted the press conference in a statement: “Without providing any advance notice to the prosecutors pursuing this case in court or the Gilgo Beach Homicide Task Force members investigating these murders day in and day out, we watched today’s press conference not knowing what was going to be reported. We will continue to investigate this case through the grand jury process and not through press conferences. No private attorneys are or have ever been members or agents of the task force.”

He added: “Any citizen who believes that they have relevant evidence regarding the Gilgo Beach investigation should report it to the investigative agencies that comprise the task force. Those agencies are the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Homicide Bureau, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Any attorneys representing victims or their families, by definition have a conflict of interest and should not be a part of the investigation. Accordingly, private attorneys are not part of the task force and potential witnesses should not be reaching out to a private attorney with an interest in the outcome of the case.

In July, Rex Heuermann, of Massapequa Park,, was indicted on three counts of first-degree murder charges and three counts of second-degree murder charges in the deaths of sex workers Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costello, whose remains were found along Ocean Parkway in 2010.

A total of 11 sets of remains were found in the Gilgo Beach murders, which rocked Long Island, including that of a toddler and an Asian male.

In January, Heuermann was charged in the murder of a fourth victim, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said.

Ray has said he believes that Heuermann has killed others whose bodies have not been yet found.

A GoFundMe, “Help Support Magdalene Dismas Society, Inc,” has also been created by Delores Smith and Frances Nicotra on behalf of Magdalene Dismas Society Inc., an organization they said was founded by Ray in the fight against sex trafficking.

The fundraising campaign has an initial goal of $6,500, which will be used to host the symposium event “for the purpose of revealing and sharing facts about the Long Island Serial Killer, or LISK, case and other related serious crimes,” they said.

At the press conference, which Ray sent to Patch via a video, and which CBS News also streamed live, Ray said that new evidence has been uncovered that could link Heuermann to Karen Vergata and Shannan Gilbert, whose family he represents.

Four witnesses have come forward, Ray said, and two have signed affidavits.

The first was a woman who said she and her boyfriend, a New York City police narcotics detective, went to a swingers’ club in New York City in the late 1990s — at the time Karen Vergata’s body was found — where they would go to switch partners; they found a phone number in the bathroom for a swingers’ home in Massapequa Park. She and her boyfriend headed to Long Island but picked up a sex worker in New York, on the way.

That woman, Ray said, had just been released from jail and was hungry and disheveled.

“She came in the car with the two of them,” he said.

They went to Heuermann’s house, Ray said. When the couple left, they saw the other woman still inside. The woman, who signed an affidavit, said she was concerned about leaving the woman behind, even more so when she saw her running out naked. But her boyfriend, Ray said, told her not to worry, they were just playing a game, and they drove away.

Years later, Ray said, the woman saw Karen Vergata’s photo on the news and said she recognized her as the woman from that night; later, when Heuermann was arrested, she recognized him on television, too, Ray said.

“I found her story to be credible,” Ray said, of the witness.

The second witness, Ray said, was a woman who had a career as a banker by day and worked as a taxi driver at night in Suffolk County to help support her family.

“She has nothing to gain by coming forward,” Ray said.

Ray said during one incident, she was called to the Sayville Motor Lodge on Sunrise Highway, where a girl was waiting, locked in a bathroom, who would come out if she flashed her lights and beeped the horn.

“A giant man who fits the description of Rex Heuermann comes out an he’s covering his face with his arms and runs to an SUV,” he said.

The girl came out, crying, shaking, very upset and got into the car. She drove the girl to the railrod station. “This girl was a sex worker who was servicing the big man,” Ray said.

He told the girl that he’d give her money to help her family including her mother, sisters, and boyfriend — Gilbert also had a mother, sisters and a boyfriend, Ray said. The man said he’d give her $1,000 but when the girl looked in the envelope, it was torn paper, he said.

The girl had a drooping eye, like Gilbert, Ray said. The witness recognized her photo on TV later, he said.

The story had a second part, Ray said: Several days or weeks later, in the fall of 2009, the taxi driver got another call from the same dispatcher and said she was to pick up a man; that man told her he was taking her for a “long drive into the woods,” at a different destination than she was told

She saw a girl in the window, Ray said. The driver recognized the man as the same man from the motel.

Later, after his arrest, the witness said she recognized Heuermann on television as the man she’d seen both nights, Ray said.

She refused to drive into the woods, and told him to take the car and her money. He threatened to kill her, Ray said, adding that he had a gun. The taxi dispatcher spoke over the radio and said he’d heard the exchange — the man believed to be Heuermann then ran off and fired off a pistol twice, Ray said.

Ray also discussed two other witnesses, one from Oklahoma City, another from another state, both sex workers believed to have serviced Heuermann; both those women have not signed affidavits or given statements yet. But, Ray said, from the interviews, he felt it was clear that Heuermann “stalked” and “haunted” his victims, “chasing” and “hunting them.”

Ray said there is much more evidence, “similar in kind,” yet to be discussed.

In August, investigators identified the Gilgo Beach victim referred to as“Jane Doe No. 7” as Karen Vergata.

The 34-year-old woman’s remains were first found on Fire Island on April 20, 1996: Human remains were located in Davis Park, Suffolk County police said. DNA later linked the remains to a second set of remains found April 11, 2011, at Tobay Beach in Nassau County.

Her skull was found the same day as law enforcement discovered the remains of “Jane Doe No. 3,” also known as “Peaches.” Vergata’s skull was also found just weeks after the remains of Jessica Taylor were found March 29, 2011, near Ocean Parkway.

Vergata went missing around Feb. 14, 1996, Tierney said at an August news conference. At the time, she lived on West 45th Street in Manhattan, and was believed to be working as an escort when she disappeared.

No missing person report was filed at the time, Tierney said.

In August 2022, about six months after the Gilgo Task Force was formed between multiple Suffolk County law enforcement departments, a DNA profile suitable for genealogical comparison was developed from Vergata’s remains.

In September 2022, the FBI used a genetic genealogy review to identify Vergata. Using a buccal swab from one of Vergata’s relatives, law enforcement confirmed her identity.

Before announcing Vergata’s identity to the public, Tierney said he prioritized informing her family.
This occurred at the same time as when the task force underwent a grand jury process for the cases of Megan Waterman, Amber Costello, Melissa Barthelemy, and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, whose remains were found along Ocean Parkway in 2010.
Tierney also released a photograph of Vergata at the news conference.
Tierney said that by using a buccal swab from a relative, the FBI was able to identify “Fire Island Jane Doe” as Vergata.

Tierney announced he would prosecute Heuermann at trial. Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Patch contacted Michael Brown, Heuermann’s attorney, multiple times for comment.

On Dec. 13, 2011, Shannan Gilbert’s remains were found.

In 2020, for the first time, police released the “significant piece of evidence,” in the Gilgo Beach murders — a black belt embossed with the letters “HM” or “WH,”; the letters are 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch. The belt was found at the initial stages of the investigation at a crime scene and is believed to have been handled by the suspect and did not belong to the victims, then-Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said at a press conference.

Hart said the investigation was one of the most “well-known and complex that this department has ever undertaken … We will remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver justice and in doing so, give a sense of closure,” Hart said.

To continue sharing information, SCPD then launched a new website devoted exclusively to the Gilgo Beach murders, providing an avenue for the public to share tips.

At the event, Hart detailed the timeline of the years since 10 sets of remains were found.

Ray, the attorney for victim Shannan Gilbert’s family, said at the time that he would demand that SCPD release to the public immediately the four 911 tapes made when Gilbert disappeared in 2010.

“I have fought alone, in court for nearly four years to compel SCPD to release the 911 tapes. SCPD has relentlessly stonewalled against me and the public, and refused to release them, even though the State Supreme Court ordered the police to release the tapes to me. SCPD has defied the court,” Ray said at the time.