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Police identify 7th victim in Gilgo Beach murder investigation

Karen Vergata's remains were discovered in 1996 on Fire Island and later linked to a skull found near Gilgo Beach.
Police identify 7th victim in Gilgo Beach murder investigation
Posted at 11:01 AM, Aug 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-04 11:41:26-04

Authorities in New York identified Karen Vergata on Friday as the seventh victim in the Gilgo Beach murder investigation.

Her remains were discovered in 1996 on Fire Island and later linked to a skull found near Gilgo Beach in 2011.

A suspect in Vergata's death was not named.

However, there was a major break in the case last month when Rex Heuermann was arrested for the deaths of three women. He's also the prime suspect in the killing of a fourth woman.

Police said Thursday that Vergata, who was 34 at the time she went missing, was a sex worker, just like many of the other victims.

"I think it's important that we remember, remember and honor not only in this forgotten, but all the victims on Gilgo Beach," said Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney. 

Vergata's remains were identified after a round of DNA analysis, Tierney said.

There are still other unidentified remains in the case. One woman was nicknamed "Peaches" by investigators because of a tattoo on her body.

Some of her remains were discovered stuffed inside a plastic tub in Hempstead Lake State Park in 1997; others turned up near Gilgo Beach in 2011, along with the remains of an unidentified toddler believed to be her daughter.

Authorities have said Heuermann, who lived in Massapequa Park across the bay from where some of the bodies were found, is unlikely to be responsible for all the deaths.

Investigators zeroed in on Heuermann as a suspect in the slayings of four women—Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello, and Maureen Brainard-Barnes—when a new task force formed last year ran an old tip about a Chevy Avalanche pickup truck through a vehicle records database.

A hit came back identifying one of those makes and models as belonging to Heuermann, who lived in a neighborhood police had been focusing on because of cellphone location data and call records, authorities said.

Detectives said they were later able to link Heuermann’s DNA to a hair found on a restraint used in one of the killings.

So far, he has been charged in the deaths of Barthelemy, Waterman, and Costello. Prosecutors say they are working to charge him with Brainard-Barnes' death but have not yet done so.

Through his lawyer, Heuermann has denied killing anyone and pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

SEE MORE: Gilgo Beach murder suspect's attorney says there will be no plea deals


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