I thought neighbor was creepy for years: He's the Gilgo Beach suspect (2024)

A former New York City firefighter has revealed he spent almost three decades living next door to the prime suspect in theGilgo Beach serial killings.

Etienne de Villiers, 69, and his wife Patricia, 66, had lived next door to alleged murderer Rex Heuermann, who is accused of killing six women who disappeared between 1993 and 2010.

All the while, de Villiers, known as 'Frenchy' at his firehouse, believed his neighbor to be 'creepy' but harmless, ever since moving to their home on First Avenue in the small town of 17,000 in 1995 with his wife, Patricia.

Heuermann and de Villiers lived next door to one another in the Long Island town ofMassapequa Park since 1995.

De Villiers initially was astounded to learn of his neighbor's alleged crimes - but quickly recalled incidents withHeuermann that had left him feeling uncomfortable.

Etienne de Villiers, 69, lived next door to Rex Heuermann, an architect, who has pleaded not guilty to five murders and is considered a suspect in a sixth

Rex Heuermann and de Villiers lived next door to one another in the Long Island town of Massapequa Park since 1995

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He described Heuermann as a man with a towering figure who would try to make awkward small talk with his wife, especially when de Villiers was out of the house on duty.

'Every time she's out there and I'm at the firehouse working, Rex would hang over the fence, talking to her,'de Villiers told The Daily Beast.

But Patricia finally told her husband that Heuermann's behavior made her nervous.

There was a time when he would peek at her over the fence and stare at her while sunbathing, trying to make small talk, when the couple first moved into the neighborhood.

'He would constantly say - he was six-four, 250 pounds - and he would try to start conversations with her,'De Villiers explained toFox News.

De Villiers ended up confronting Heuermann and asked him to stop. Perhaps surprisingly, Heuermann complied without resistance.

'I literally threatened the guy,' de Villiers said. 'I figured if I got to fight the guy, I got to fight the guy. I don’t care how big he is. I told him, "Don’t make me…" I said STOP!

'It was unpleasant, he complied. He stopped, didn't argue with me,' de Villiers said.

'He said, "I won't do it no more", and he backed off immediately. So I went, "okay."

'When I had that altercation with him, I basically threatened him to stop leering at my wife. He backed off. The violence thing I didn't see coming because he didn't come off violent. I mean, he was strange to look at, enormous,' de Villiers recalled.

'But he never became more violent to me or to anybody that I could tell,' he said. 'It’s scary now, when you stop and think that the girls all look like my wife.'

Etienne de Villiers, 69, together with his wife Patricia, 66, lived next door toHeuermann

The home of former FDNY Firefighter Etienne de Villiers and his wife, Patricia, is seen right, while that of the Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect, Rex Heuermann, is seen left

The 6-foot-4-inch Heuermann would often to peering over the fence try to make small talk while Patricia was sunbathing when de Villiers was on duty at the firehouse

Over the years, their interactions remained short but friendly - even if they were limited to brief chats when de Villiers walked to his car parked in the driveway.

'We didn’t have a beer together or play cards or anything together. But whenever I came out to get my car, he we would always say, "How’re you doing?"',de Villiers recalled. 'That’s pretty much how it went, how it stayed over the next 30 years.'

Heuermann would often mention his size, his 250lb weight, and his gun collectionand liked hunting, even noting how he a safe door to 'protect his guns.' The fact surprised de Villiers given the run down state of his home.

'The guy was odd and strange but never violent,' de Villiers said. 'We spoke every day almost. He was always kind and respectful. I was surprised by the violence. I really feel bad for the children.

Despite growing up and living there for years, Heuermann had let his house fall into disrepair - even with him being an architect. De Villiers likened him to a shoemaker with holes in his shoes.

It appears de Villiers' relationship with Heuermann was unique in the neighborhood, as many others avoided him.

'The neighbor to the other side of him had these big trees put up so you can’t see his house at all, so he had zero contact with the guy,' de Villiers said. 'So it’s sad to say that pretty much the only one who spoke to that guy was me.'

Others in the neighborhood believed the suspected serial killer to be a quiet family man, who could often be seen tinkering in his garage while keeping to himself.

The realization has left De Villiers reflecting on the contrast between his life's work of saving lives as a firefighter and Heuermann's alleged crimes

De Villiers also noticed that Heuermann's friends appeared scruffy, unlike the typical Massapequa resident.

'They seemed a pretty low life type. You could pick them up and put them in a trailer park,' de Villiers said to The Daily Beast.

Heuermann had been married to Asa Ellerup. Together they had a daughter, Victoria, while Ellerup's son, Christopher Sheridan, also lived with them.

Christopher, who has developmental disabilities seemed extremely withdrawn and friendless as he grew older,de Villiers said.

De Villiers, who served at Ground Zero after 9/11, only recently learned about Heuermann's alleged 'post event' to-do list in which he detailed methods designed to prevent bodies from being found and identified.

The document, recovered from one of Heuermann's computers, outlined gruesome steps such as 'remove ID marks' and 'remove head and hands.'

It was 2010 when Suffolk County Police Officer John Mallia discovered the remains of Melissa Barthelemy, one of the Gilgo Four, while searching for a missing sex worker.

The discovery led to the unearthing of more victims and the identification of a new serial killer on Long Island.

Initially, investigators had suspected a high-ranking police official, but DNA evidence pointed to Heuermann.

Heuermann was initially charged with the murders of three women: Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Costello.The victims had disappeared between 2007 and 2010.

In January, he was also charged with the murder of a fourth victim Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

Etienne Devilliers, Rex Heuermann's neighbor, shows where where Heuermann used to look over the backyard fence at his wife sunbathing at their Massapequa Park, New York home

Despite being an architect,Heuermann let his home fall into disrepair over the 30 years

Then, last month, Heuermann was charged with killing two more women, including Sandra Costilla, murdered in 1993, and Jessica Taylor, whose torso was found in 2003.

De Villiers' can remember cops approaching his door early one morning in July 20213, asking him to move his cars.

He complied, and upon watching the news, learned that Heuermann was the Gilgo killer suspect. He was stunned, given their years of neighborly interactions.

De Villiers shared a conversation whereHeuermann's son Christopher expressed his disbelief about his father's guilt.

The neighbor reassured him, emphasizing the principle of innocence until proven guilty.He also felt sorry for Heuermann's wife Victoria.

It was again in May of this year just as in the previous July that helicopters buzzed overhead, and police squad cars once again shut off the suburban block.

A second search uncovered yet more evidence, and saw Heuermann charged with the additional murders.

The indictment described his meticulous planning and brutal methods.

It has left De Villiers reflecting on the contrast between his life's work of saving lives as a firefighter and Heuermann's alleged crimes, destroying families in the process.

I thought neighbor was creepy for years: He's the Gilgo Beach suspect (2024)

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