THE estranged wife and children of accused Gilgo Beach killer Rex Heuermann were reportedly forced to sleep in a rental car for over a week while police searched their home in the aftermath of his arrest last month.
Melissa Moore, the daughter of the Happy Face Killer, visited Heurmann’s wife, Asa Ellerup, and her two adult children, Victoria and Christopher, at their home in Massapequa Park on Long Island on August 6.
For 12 days, the home was the subject of an exhaustive police search after Heuermann was arrested on July 13 and charged with the murders of three sex workers found dead along Gilgo Beach in late 2010.
Asa and her children were informed of his arrest immediately by investigators in Suffolk County and told to vacate their home as quickly as possible.
Moore – who has worked with hundreds of families of other accused serial killers over the last two decades – told The U.S. Sun that Asa, Christopher, and Victoria were offered little assistance by police, failing to issue them a proper duty of care.
She said: “In my time working with families such as these, I have known law enforcement to place a family in a hotel when they seize the home for evidence. This was not the case for Asa, Christopher, and Victoria.
“When Rex was arrested […] they went into the house, the police and the feds. And then they said, ‘Listen, we have the warrants. We’re going to search this house. We’re going to be here for a while.’
“They told the family to pack an overnight bag and leave. They also took the Avalanche [the family’s car].
“They took her to the rental car place. She rented a car. Then she made arrangements to stay with family and she had no choice.”
According to Moore, Asa and her children – disorientated and overwhelmed – vacated the home immediately as instructed, not even allowing them enough time to locate all of their pets.
Christopher, who suffers from learning difficulties, located his service dog Stewie but the family was unable to find their two cats.
“They left assuming the police would care for the animals as they left the home without any notice,” added Moore.
“Immediately the authorities trapped the cats and sent them to a kill shelter.”
Asa and her children initially arranged to stay with her elderly father who is very ill, Moore said.
They stayed with him for the first few nights but, after learning the press knew where her father lived, Asa and her children hastily left to protect him, fearful of the impact the mounting media attention may have on his health.
“Asa and the kids left and slept in the rental car until they were given their home back by authorities,” said Moore.
“Lawyers representing Asa learned that her animals were in a shelter and arranged for them to be removed before they could be euthanized.”
POINTING THE FINGER
Ellerup’s attorneys have previously said the home was destroyed during the search and is now almost entirely uninhabitable.
In a press conference last week, they also revealed that Ellerup is battling skin and breast cancer and will soon lose her health insurance having lost her job in the wake of Heuermann’s arrest.
Moore – one of the few people who can truly understand what the family is going through – set up a GoFundMe for Ellerup at the end of last month to help her and her children get back on their feet.
So far, the fundraiser has amassed more than $50,000 in donations and its target goal has been increased to $100,000.
That money will be sent directly to Ellerup and used to repair the home, pay for her treatment, and cover any other costs, including attorney fees for her divorce from Heuermann, Moore says.
She flew from her native California to meet Ellerup face-to-face two weeks again after being invited by her attorneys.
During the time they spent together, Moore said she was struck by Ellerup’s compassion for others and said it’s evident she is still struggling to process the events of the last month.
Days after her visit, John Ray, an attorney for two other women found dead along Gilgo whose cases are not currently linked to Heuermann, accused Ellerup of being an accomplice to her husband and accused her of “conning” the public in various interviews.
“She should be considered a suspect and not just a bystander or who’s been victimized by her husband,” Ray told the New York Daily News.
Police have already said that Ellerup and her children were out of town when they believe Heuermann claimed his victims.
However, Ray told NewsNation that he believes Ellerup not knowing what her husband was up to was “nonsense.”
“She is complicit in her husband’s solicitation and use of sex workers in his home over the course of years,” said Ray, claiming to have evidence to support the allegation.
“She was in this tiny little home, where she lived and he lived. She was upstairs when he would be downstairs having sex with these prostitutes, and he spent enormous amounts of money on them,” he added. “And it was a regular thing that happened.”
Attorneys for the family have since strongly condemned Ray’s remarks.
Having met Asa herself, Moore said there is no doubt in her mind that Ellerup is completely innocent and a victim of her husband in her own right.
“There is 100 percent no doubt that she did not have any involvement in this from our conversations,” insisted Moore in an exclusive interview with The U.S. Sun.
“Her innocence is clear. I’ve been in this space for so long, I’ve met hundreds of other families going through similar circumstances, and I can read a person very well.
“When the day comes when she finally feels like sharing her story, everybody will have no doubt that she wasn’t involved in any way.
“I don’t know what evidence [Ray] is trying to claim, but authorities were tracking Rex for a long time and if she was complicit she would’ve been charged as well.
“It just reminds me of what my family went through, and she’s being treated as guilty by association. That just causes more harm.”
Responding to criticisms from Ray and others that Ellerup appears more concerned with the damage done to her house than the harm done to Heuermann’s alleged victims and their families, Moore contests that critics again are way off base.
“When somebody you love is caused of destroying somebody’s life, the last thing you do is speak about it because that will cause more harm to them,” added Moore.
“It’s her attorneys who have been speaking about her house and not her […] and she’s more concerned about the people she loves being impacted by all this than herself.
“The lack of her saying anything about the victims is no indication of her feeling for the victims in any way at all,” continued Moore.
“The term ‘victim’ is a broad title, and I’m not going to put a hierarchy on victimhood here. Asa and her children are victims in their own way too. And saying she’s a victim doesn’t diminish that people were killed or lost loved ones.
“I’m not comparing their pain to her pain. I’m saying they’re all victims who’ve been destroyed by this person.
“And you can support both her and the victims’ families, there’s not two teams here.
“The focus needs to be on the perpetrator who did this. Looking at the family is just a distraction, in my opinion.”
When Moore arrived at the Heuermann home on August 6, she greeted Ellerup with a hug and told her she was going to be okay.
“People really know you’re a victim and they too don’t like watching you suffer,” Moore recounted telling Ellerup.
“I stroked her hair and said, ‘I am so sorry Asa for what you are going through.’ Then I divulged to her with a chuckle that I irreverently laughed when I saw her picture of her flipping off the press.
“[I also told her] that she was entitled to be angry to come back to her home and see it in shambles and press swarming to document it.”
Ellerup then gave Moore a guided tour of the home.
The bathroom door – which had been custom-made by Rex to cater to his hulking six-foot-four frame – was missing from its hinges and Ellerup had nailed a curtain over the doorframe for privacy, Moore said.
Two large chunks had been carved out of the side of the bathtub meaning it was no longer useable and tiles had been ripped up from the floor.
All of the bedroom doors were missing too, she said, and their mattresses confiscated by investigators.
The kitchen was in a similar state of disarray with countertops ripped up and boxes stacked ceiling high.
The family’s doorbell camera was also ripped from the front door and an antique dresser belonging to Ellerup had been destroyed for reasons unknown.
Moore said she watched as a resigned Ellerup gave the volunteers the “okay” to throw the dresser in the dumpster.
“They have no comforts of home,” said Moore.
“Asa is sleeping on a chair with the covers that were on the foam pads,” said Moore.
“Christopher has a blow-up mattress and is sleeping next to his dog’s bed and Victoria is sleeping on a big bean bag in her room.”
COMING TO TERMS
Primarily, the family is currently focused on rebuilding their home and returning it to a livable condition so they can establish a new sense of normalcy, added Moore.
All the while, Ellerup is still struggling to come to terms with what her husband of more than 20 years stands accused of.
“There is no playbook for what you should do after hearing your husband or father is an alleged serial killer. It’s truly one moment at a time, to eventually one day at a time,” said Moore.
“On top of this trauma, is another battle: she has three different types of cancer. Truly this is now complex trauma, with wave after wave hitting her.
“There isn’t an ending near too, as more is to come in both the trial and in her battle against cancer.”
Moore said she and Ellerup spoke candidly about her relationship with Heurermann and even shared some early memories of the pair dating.
She shared her own stories about her father, Keith Hunter Jesperson, a Canadian-born truck driver who was found guilty in 1995 of murdering at least eight women across multiple different states.
“I shared that when I was in junior high school my father pawned his road bike for me to get a used violin for my music class,” reflected Moore.
“I told Asa that it was perplexing to know my father could be so selfless and yet be a monster to his victims.
“And that’s what is so confusing, those positive memories.”
Moore said it seemed as if Ellerup was dissecting her memories of Rex to find any red flags she may have missed at the time.
“That’s just my observation,” she said, “but when we were talking about our stories and our experiences, we were like dissecting, dissecting our stories like, ‘What did we miss? Why did we not see this?’
“To me, a person who was guilty of any kind of involvement would not be doing that at all.
“I’m really looking forward to the moment she shares her story, but it’s too early for that at the moment.
“She’s still processing everything. I mean, we were sat there dissecting her life.
“She can’t share her story until she’s finished doing that.”
Rex Heuermann was under investigation for more than a year before his stunning arrest last month.
He has so far been charged with the murders of three women: Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Costello.
He is also the prime suspect in the murder of a fourth, Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
Collectively, the women are known as the Gilgo Four. They were all petite sex workers in their 20s who advertised their services on Craigslist and disappeared between July 2007 and September 2010.
Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to all charges.