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New York authorities announce identity of another Gilgo Beach murder victim

An image of Karen Vergata is shown at a press conference on August 4. (Provided Photo/CNN/WABC)

(CNN) — Suffolk County, New York, authorities on Friday identified a Gilgo Beach murder victim known as “Fire Island Jane Doe” as Karen Vergata, a 34-year-old escort from Manhattan who went missing on Valentine’s Day in 1996.

“I think it’s important that we remember and honor not only Ms. Vergata but all the victims on Gilgo Beach,” Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said at a news conference.

There are “no charges at this time” and investigators will continue to work on the case, Tierney said.

Vergata’s remains were among nearly a dozen sets of human remains found along Ocean Parkway on the South Shore between 2010 and 2011, including four women who became known as the “Gilgo Four.”

Live updates on the Gilgo Beach murders investigation

The long-running murder mystery on suburban Long Island remained unsolved for over a decade until a break in the case came last month, after investigators recovered DNA from a pizza crust that was thrown away – linking it to the alleged killer of the Gilgo Four – Rex Heuermann, a New York City architect.

Heuermann, 59, was first identified as a potential suspect in early 2022, shortly after a multi-agency task force was formed to examine the cold cases.

Heuermann is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy in 2009 and Megan Waterman and Amber Costello in 2010, according to Suffolk County prosecutors.

He is also the prime suspect in the 2007 disappearance and death of a fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, according to a court document from prosecutors, but he hasn’t been charged in connection with that fourth homicide.

Through his attorney, Heuermann has refuted the charges against him.

“I did not do this,” Heuermann said after his arrest, according to his court-appointed attorney, Michael Brown.

Investigators believe the killings of the four women, who worked as escorts, might have happened in the suspect’s home in Massapequa Park, New York – Heuermann lived less than 6 miles from where remains were found.

The case, featured in a bestselling nonfiction book and a Netflix drama, started with the search for another missing woman in 2010, leading to the discovery of multiple sets of human remains. By the time the remains of the missing woman, Shannan Gilbert, were found one year later, at least 10 sets of human remains had been recovered across two counties.

Authorities believe the death of Gilbert may have been accidental and not related to the other killings.

The crucial break in the Gilgo Four case came in January when investigators took a swab from the leftover pizza crust Heuermann discarded in the trash outside his Manhattan office, according to the bail application. DNA evidence linked him to a hair found on the burlap sack where Waterman’s remains were found.

Prosecutors have asked for a swab of DNA from Heuermann, a spokesperson from the office said Thursday. CNN is working to obtain a copy of the document requesting a DNA sample.