Rex Heuermann was painstaking in his Manhattan professional pursuits. At home in Massapequa Park, he left neighbors discomfited.
At his office near the Empire State Building, Rex Heuermann was a master of the meticulous: a veteran architectural consultant and a self-styled expert at navigating the intricacies of New York City’s building code. He impressed some clients and drove others crazy with his fine-toothed directives.
At home in Massapequa Park on Long Island, while some neighbors saw Mr. Heuermann as just another commuter in a suit, others found him a figure of menace. He glowered at neighbors while swinging an ax in the front yard of a low-slung, dilapidated house that parents cautioned their children to avoid on Halloween. He was kicked out of a Whole Foods for stealing fruit.
“We would cross the street,” said Nicholas Ferchaw, 24, a neighbor. “He was somebody you don’t want to approach.”
On Friday, Suffolk County prosecutors said that residents of Massapequa Park had aserial killer living in their midst. They accused Mr. Heuermann, 59, of leaving a quarter-mile trail of young women’s bodies on the South Shore of Long Island in what came to be known as the Gilgo Beach Killings. Yet he was so careful in covering his tracks, they said, that it took them nearly 15 years to arrest him.
Mr. Heuermann’s friends and clients in the real estate business were flabbergasted.
His neighbor Mr. Ferchaw said, “I wasn’t surprised at all — because of all the creepiness.”
Mr. Heuermann, who was arrested in Midtown on Thursday night, was charged Friday with three counts of first-degree murder and ordered held without bail during a brief appearance at a courthouse in Suffolk County. His lawyer said outside the courthouse that Mr. Heuermann denied committing the killings.
If convicted of these crimes, Mr. Heuermann would join the ranks of serial killers who led double lives, the other one quite mundane. John Wayne Gacy was a construction contractor in Illinois. Richard Cottingham, known as the Torso Killer, was a computer operator for a New Jersey insurance company.
In a video interview posted on YouTube last year and conducted at his entirely unremarkable-looking office on Fifth Avenue, Mr. Heuermann — tall and heavyset, sporting a toupee-like 1970s haircut and a blue dress shirt with a pen peeking from the pocket — comes across as a recognizable character: the scrappy, street-smart Noo Yawker, the I-got-a-guy guy.
“When a job that should have been routine suddenly becomes not routine,” he tells the interviewer, Antoine Amira, “I get the phone call.”
According to his résumé and the website of his company, RH Consultants & Associates, Mr. Heuermann’s customers included American Airlines, Catholic Charities, and the city’s own Department of Environmental Protection. He represented clients before the Landmark Preservation Commission many times and claimed credit for hundreds of successful applications before city agencies.
Steve Kramberg, a property manager in Brooklyn who worked with Mr. Heuermann for about 30 years, called him “a gem to deal with, highly knowledgeable.” Mr. Heuermann was “a big goofy guy, a little bit on the nerdy side” who worked long hours and was available day and night, Mr. Kramberg said. But he was also devoted to his wife, who Mr. Kramberg said had health problems, and to his elderly mother.