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The Lead with Jake Tapper

NYC Architect Arrested In Gilgo Beach Murders; News Conference On Suspected Serial Killer; Actors Join Writers On Strike, Shutting Down Industry. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 14, 2023 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Law enforcement says they have caught a serial killer.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The suspect is a married father of two and an architect in New York City. And he just made his first court appearance after being charged with the deaths of three women whose bodies were found on a Long Island beach in 2010.

We will tell you how a car, burner phones, fake email accounts, and DNA from a piece of pizza led police to the suspect. Any moment authorities are going to give all of us an update.


Then, it's so hot in parts of the United States, temperatures could hit 130 degrees.


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: It feels like if hot sauce could be felt without you having to taste it. Like it got poured on my back.


TAPPER: One thousand heat records have already been shattered, and more will likely burn up this weekend. Is this the new normal?

And this summer's biggest Hollywood drama is not taking place on the big screen. It's happening on the sidewalks and streets. It's faces you know from TV and film walking the picket lines. "The Nanny" actress and president of the Screen Actors Guild, Fran Drescher, will join us in moments.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper.

We're going to start with our law and justice lead and the hunt for a serial killer. Any moment, state and federal investigators in Long Island, New York, will update the public on the first arrest in their decade-long investigation into the Gilgo Beach murders. This is a case tied to at least ten sets of human remains discovered since 2010 along the shore in suburban Long Island.

Earlier this afternoon, a married father of two and a New York City architect named Rex Heuermann was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. Heuermann is connected to the serial murders of three women and is the prime suspect in a fourth. Those three women were part of a group known to law enforcement as the Gilgo four. Their bodies were found near each other, wrapped in burlap, discovered within days of each other in 2010. They were all in their 20s and all of them, according to authorities, offered sex services on Craigslist.

Now, as new details from investigators emerge, showing Heuermann used burner phones and a fake email account, the district attorney says a surveillance team used a pizza box that they saw Heuermann throw into the trash and then they matched DNA from a pizza crust to DNA found on one of the victims.

Perhaps even more disturbing, prosecutors say Heuermann took at least one of the victims' phones and used the phone to call the families and taunt the families after allegedly killing the women.

Our reporters are covering this across the state of New York. CNN's Brynn Gingras is in New York City for us, and CNN's Miguel Marquez is near the suspect's house in Massapequa.

Brynn, let me start with you. What are we expecting to hear from authorities when they speak at any moment?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, just more details of how they uncovered this suspect. I want to tell you, though, Jake, in court, the Suffolk County district attorney said that they actually had to stop this investigation early because they say Heuermann was still in contact with sex workers, and they feared for their safety.

As you said, this is a 59-year-old family man, married with two children, pretty much flying under the radar. An architect in New York City but had a home in Massapequa, now charged with three of those murders but considered, as you said, the prime suspect in the fourth murder, the Gilgo four.

This goes back to 2010 when those four bodies of the women who were sex workers advertising their business on Craigslist, their body were found near each other wrapped in burlap sacks, a couple of them were tied with duct tape, another restrained with belts. And they basically connected those four and then other remains were found.

And really, this is a case that's haunted detectives for quite a long time. It picked up more steam in 2022 when there was a new administration, new police commissioner in Suffolk County who came from the NYPD. They created a task force, and that's when really this investigation took off. As you said, so much detail of how they found or connect Heuermann to these crimes.

Let me go through it. They issued 300 subpoenas. They had numerous search warrants, and they collected a ton of evidence including burner cell phones that they say Heuermann used to taunt the victims' family members. He used them allegedly to do research about serial killers, about child pornography, about sadistic websites. He had fake emails that were connected to him, as well.

And then there is some DNA evidence that they obtained, as well. As you mentioned, there were hairs that were uncovered in those burlap sacks that the DNA matching, they say, that pizza crust that they got from a pizza box that Heuermann discarded.

They also found hairs of his wife in the evidence on those bodies of those women. According to authorities, his wife and kids were out of town when these murders were actually done. So, just so much detail and I expect we'll hear more from the district attorney about how they can connect Heuermann to these three cases, the prime suspect in the fourth. But it will be interesting to see if he does talk about the other murders that have haunted this area of Long Island. Is he or is he a prime suspect in those cases, as well?

TAPPER: The science of forensics is so much more advanced than it was a few decades ago.



TAPPER: And it's fascinating.

Miguel, what did you find out? What more did you find out about the suspect today in Massapequa?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is a case that has both traumatized this area just east of New York City on Long Island and captivated it, as well. In all, there were 11 bodies found in this area of Gilgo Beach. And four of them now, the investigators say they believe they have the person who did it.

I want to show what's happening at the house because it's still very much an active investigation here. There are vehicles from both Suffolk County and state troopers out here. We just saw several individual leave from the house with boxes of evidence.

Clearly, what they are trying to do now is tie down every possible lead to every one of those deaths along the Gilgo Beach area in the 2010s. They have been here for much of the day, since very early this morning. The arrest was made last night. And they are going to look for everything they cannot only from email and cell phones, but any other physical evidence that might be in his house and possibly in his office.

It's been an hour, hour and a half commute to Manhattan from here. He worked in Midtown Manhattan. Once they had that partial DNA and they had him as a possible suspect, they then went to collect DNA from him. They surveilled him, they watched him, eat a piece of pizza, put it in a box, dump it on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. They collected that, and that has so far solved it for them -- Jake.

TAPPER: Brynn, have we heard from any of the victims' families since this development, since the arrest? GINGRAS: We haven't heard from any of the family members just yet of

the four women that he is connected to, according to authorities. We have heard from a family member of one of these other murders which, again, we don't know if it's fully connected or if it's even tied to Heuermann.

And basically, they're even saying this is a sigh of relief, because, Jake, this is a case, again, that's haunted investigators, it's haunted that community. People kind of thought police didn't care, right, because these are sex workers as victims. They thought maybe because of their occupation alone that police really gave up on this.

So there is a new energy of this community that maybe this will get solved for all of the victims. But, again, we're still waiting it hear from those four family members who, of course, you can imagine there's just a sigh of relief because they've been waiting so long for just some sort of answer as to who might have done this.

I do want to mention, Jake, we did hear from the attorney of Rex Heuermann after he had his court appearance, and he did say apparently to his attorney that I didn't do this, he said he was doing it through tears and seemed distraught about these charges. This is a -- I know we keep talking about he's an architect, a family man.

His physical appearance is interesting, too, because that's also something authorities have tied him to. Witnesses for one of the murders say he seemed like an ogre. And if you saw him in court, he is a very big man. And I think we're about to hear from the district attorney.

TAPPER: Yeah, let's go live now to Long Island, New York, where the Suffolk County district attorney and other law enforcement officials are giving an update. Let's listen in.

RAYMOND A. TIERNEY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY: -- homicide detectives and he's been indicted in a grand jury presentation by the Suffolk County district attorney's office for the murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Costello. The investigation of Maureen Brainard-Barnes is ongoing.

These young women went missing between July of 2007 and September of 2010. They were found in December of 2010 by the Suffolk County police department, and then there was nothing, absolutely nothing for the next 13 years. Their cases went unsolved, until today.

When I took office in January of '22, I made Gilgo a priority before I took office. I met with the victims (AUDIO GAP) we were going to do it differently. When I showed up, you weren't going to see me calling the media and being on Gilgo Beach with a giant magnifying lens looking for clues 12 years after the case. What I was going to do was I was going to work with my task force, we were going to form a task force, we were going to work with the Suffolk County Police Department, we were going to work with the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office, we're going to work with the New York state police, we're going to work with our FBI, and we were going to form this task force and we're going to work together, and we were going to -- we were going to use the grand jury, the power of the grand jury to reach a determination in this case.

[16:1 0:03]

So the grand jury has two things -- it has power, it has reach, we can obtain documents. You could interview witnesses.

The other thing that the grand jury has, grand jury has secrecy. No one knows what you do when you operate a grand jury proceeding. And we knew that when we were investigating this case and when it dealt with the media or whatever it was we were doing, we were playing before a party of one because we knew the person responsible for these murders would be looking at us.

So we were very careful how we handled the investigation. We maintained the integrity of the investigation. Most importantly of all, we maintained secrecy of that investigation. I think that's paid dividends as we've seen today.

Now, I -- you know, I think that, you know, when we had the task force, the first thing we did, got together with Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison. We formed the task force. Our first meeting was February 1st of 2022.

And what we did, what all of the agencies here, we made the commitment we were going to take our talented -- most talented investigators. So in the district attorney's office, we took ADAs, myself included. We took analysts. We took detective investigators.

And they worked on a daily basis with other talented investigators from all of the agencies here. And we started that in February 1st in 2022. Six weeks later, on March 14th, 2022, the name Rex Heuermann was first mentioned as a suspect in the Gilgo case. A New York state investigator was able to identify him in a database, and from that point on, we used the power of the grand jury, over 300 subpoenas and search warrants, looking into this individual's background to bring us to this day.

So I'm -- I'm proud -- I know that this case is over, but I'm proud of what we've accomplished up to this point. I know we have more to accomplish, but I'm also thankful, thankful for the partnership of the task force because certainly without the participation of the task force, we wouldn't be standing here.

You know, before I thank some folks and turn it over to our partners, I just want to talk a little about the evidence in the case. I know a lot of people know about the case. As I indicated, the victims went missing between July of 2010 and September -- I'm sorry, July of 2007 and September of 2010.

And in December of 2010, they were -- their bodies were recovered. They were buried in a similar fashion, in a similar location, in a similar way. All the women were petite. They were -- they all did the same thing for a living. They all advertised the same way.

And there were -- immediately there were similarities with regard to the crime scenes. All the women were bound at the head, at the midsection or at the chest, and later at the legs.

The other thing I think that was -- that's been talked about in the media was they were bound by burlap. That has taken a life of its own in the media, and the burlap has been described or thought to be the burlap that's used at a nursery for -- that's not the burlap that was used in this case. The burlap, it was camouflage burlap used for duck blinds, so hunting. So, obviously, it was used to hide, purposely hide the bodies.

One thing that became immediately apparent was at the time of the -- each of the murders, the murderer, the defendant Heuermann, he got a -- got a cell phone and a burner phone which is prepaid and anonymous, and for each of the murders, he got an individual burner phone and used that to communicate with the victims.

Then shortly after the death of the victims he would get rid of the burner phone. And right away in December of 2012, FBI cast analysts, special agents with the cast unit of the FBI.


They immediately began looking at that cell site data. They compared the victims' phones with the burner phones, and they immediately honed in on some similarities, specifically in the Massapequa Park area. They looked at an area of a confluence of four cell towers. And they realized that this had significance because the perpetrator of these crimes was probably located within this year at our around the times of the murder. And that was mapped out. That was called the box, and it was an area in Massapequa Park.

The FBI also managed to do that for an area in midtown Manhattan. And so that was -- that was an investigative lead. The other investigative lead at the time is even though there was a significant amount of time that elapsed with regard to before the victims were recovered, there was some significant evidence recovered.

Specifically, there was a hair recovered from Maureen Brainard-Barnes from a belt buckle around her legs.

There -- with regard to Megan Waterman, there were three hairs recovered from her. One from around her head area, one from around her leg area and the burlap, then there was one caught in between the tape. And that was recovered.

Amber Costello also had a hair, a significant hair that was recovered during the time, during the time of the recovery.

But again, the crime scene because it was out there for so long and because it was exposed to the elements, those hairs were degraded. So you couldn't use traditional DNA analysis on it. You would -- you would have to wait and use mitochondrial DNA. And back in 2010 the technology wasn't there for mitochondrial DNA. So the investigation proceeded, but also technology proceeded, as well.

And then in January -- in February of 2022 we formed the task force. We began working collectively, and then a mere six weeks later, on March 14th, 2022, Rex Heuermann was identified for the first time. And the manner in which that was done was the New York state investigator looked at a database. Amber Costello, the day before her disappearance on September 1st, 2010, she met with an individual for the purposes of having him pay her money for her services.

But she -- she involved herself in a ruse where (AUDIO GAP) other individuals came into the house, pretended to be a significant other, confronted the individual with the purpose of making that individual uncomfortable, having him leave without retrieving his money. That's exactly what happened.

So that individual was identified as a person between 6'4" and 6'6", a large man thickly built, not necessarily overly muscular, but just a naturally big person with glasses, white and dark hair. Also of significance the fact that he was (AUDIO GAP) first generation Chevrolet Avalanche with a very unique feature that was between the -- a pickup truck. So it was between the cab and the bed. And that was identified. Again, that was back in 2010.

But it wasn't until March of 2022 that that database was -- was searched by the task force, and this individual was identified. That individual was Rex Heuermann, the defendant. And right away, there was some commonalities that came right to the fore.

Rex Heuermann is 6'4", largely -- a large person, not necessarily muscular, but a very physically large person. He has glasses, dark hair. He owned at the time that first generation Chevy Avalanche.


There was more. He lived at 105 1st Avenue which was located within that box area that the FBI first discovered in 2012. But there is more. Also, he worked at the time at an architect -- he owned his own architectural firm at an address at 19 West 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan, and that was also the area of interest that was identified by the FBI in 2012.

Again, that was March 14th, 2022. And from that point on, our partners and my office, we used the grand jury to continue to investigate. And we executed over 300 subpoenas, search warrants, pertaining to this individual, to find out more information.

One of the things that we did is we followed him because we wanted to get an abandonment sample of his DNA which we were able to do. We also got DNA samples, abandonment samples from his family. And then we went back and we got mitochondrial DNA testing.

And with regard to -- you know, there's an aspect of New York state law that doesn't allow me to talk about DNA testing, specifically at press conferences. It's -- so I can't do that. However, at the -- at the arraignment and also when we filed our bail letter, we talked about the significance of that evidence. So, if anyone needs to see that.

But suffice to say that evidence was significant, especially with regard to the other evidence that we had developed. It was -- there was another interesting aspect. We looked at the Heuermann family travel record and learned that during the murders of the last three women, Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello, that during the commissions of the murder the defendant's wife and children were out of New York state, and he was alone in the tri-state area.

We also went back and looked at his cell site records and compared his personal cell site records with that of the four target phones, and we saw this there was areas of commonality. In other words, that whenever the target phones would bounce off a cell tower, if the Heuermann personal phone bounced off a tower, it was always consistent and in close proximity with the target phones. And at no time was there ever an incident where the target phones were, for instance, in New Jersey while the defendant was on Long Island. So that was completely consistent.

The other thing that we looked at was we looked at his use of burner phones, and we followed using the grand jury, using the great investigative help from our partners, we followed his use of burner phones. We were able to identify seven separate burner phones that he used.

We were able to use fictitious or fraudulent email addresses and get Google warrants. And from there we got his searches, and we learned what the individual -- what the defendant was searching. In a 14-month period, he had over 200 searches pertaining to the Gilgo investigation. Not only was he looking at investigative insight, he was looking, trying to figure out how is the task force using cell phones to try to figure out what's happening. What are the developments with regard to the task force.

And this -- this really supported our decision to keep our investigative focus secret because we knew that this one person would be watching, and we didn't want to give him any insight into what we were doing. And we also didn't want him to know just how close we were getting.

So we maintained the grand jury's secrecy and maintained the integrity of our investigation. In addition to those Gilgo searches, he was compulsively searching pictures of the victims. Not only pictures of the victims, pictures of their relatives, their sisters, their children, and he was trying to locate those individuals.

In addition to that, there was a lot of torture, porn, and -- what you would consider, you know, depictions of women being abused, being raped and being killed.


In addition to all of that, we continued to look, and we were able to determine that that Chevy avalanche that was used during the commission of the Amber Costello crime, that Chevy Avalanche was in South Carolina. And again, with the help of our partners, we were able to capture -- we were able to seize that Chevy Avalanche pursuant to a search warrant, and we're certainly going to analyze that.

In addition to that, pursuant to the arrest of the defendant last night by the Suffolk County Police Department, we obtained one of his burner phones, his last burner phones. The investigate -- as I said, this case is not over. It's only beginning. We're continuing to execute search warrants, and we anticipate getting more evidence.

Before I turn it over to my partners, I want to -- I want to thanks a lot of people in the room. First and foremost, I want to thank the victims in this case. You know, it's always inspiring as a prosecutor when you get to meet the victims, and while sometimes our defendants could embody the very worst of humanity, it seems that invariably our victims embody the very best of what it means to be human.

And in this case, it was no different. I've gotten to know the families, and I'm inspired by them and impressed by their patience and by their dogged persistence in not only supporting their lost sisters or mother or daughter, but also really standing for victims everywhere. So I want to thank them all so much. And I want to let them know that we're going to continue to work this case.

The next thing I want to do, I want to thank our partners. I want to thank Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison. You know, we said -- it was a change. When we talked about not going before the media, if you see Rodney did go before the media. But it was always in a very controlled manner, and it was always with a controlled purpose.

Again, we did that because we knew we were playing before an audience of one person. And so I want to thank Rodney for his partnership. Most importantly, I want to thank Rodney for his integrity.

I think in the past what the reason why these various investigations fell short was because there was a lot of outside influence, a lot of people who had nothing to do with the investigation, nothing to do with the -- the investigation or any of the agencies that were actually handling the investigation. They still asserted pressure on those investigations.

That did not happen with our task force. Our task force was run by our members, and we did what we thought was in the best -- the best investigative steps and what was in the best interest of the investigation. So I want to thank Rodney for that and his whole team.

I know that we have Suffolk County homicide here, Kevin Beyer. We've got inspector Rowan. And I know that they've been around, and I know that they're here, and I know that they stand in the shoes of their past investigators, and I want to congratulate them and want to thank them for their partnership.

I also want to thank Sheriff Errol Toulon. Everything I said about Rodney I could say about Errol. Errol is an unbelievable partner. He was an unbelievable partner in this case. During the pendency of the case and we had to take this case down was we learned that the defendant was using alternate identities and these alternate instruments to continue to patronize sex workers which, of course, made us very nervous.

But with the help of the sheriff and his database and his analysts, we were able to continually stay one step ahead of the defendant. So thank you, Sheriff Toulon.

I want to thank the FBI. I know assistant director in charge Michael Brodack is here. I want to thank his entire team.

You know, when you have the FBI not only do you have tremendous resources and insight, whether it's the behavioral sciences unit, whether it's cast, whether it's CART, which is their computer unit, but you also have the ability to seize a car in South Carolina. I can't seize a car in South Carolina without the FBI.

So thank you for that. And thank you for your partnership, and thank you for your willingness to work with us. I want to thank the New York state troopers. I know Major Udesis (ph) here and his team.

You know, this case is emblematic of the cooperation, but we always get that same level (AUDIO GAP) no matter what case we're working. So I want to thank them. Their investigators did a great -- did great work on this job and in this case, and bee couldn't -- we couldn't have done it without them.

Lastly, I want to thank Nassau County Police Commissioner Pat Ryder. I don't know if he made it. You know, this case, as I said, spans 13 years. During that time you know, Pat Ryder has been our neighbor to the west. When it started, I think he was a sergeant, detective sergeant maybe -- uniform sergeant.

But whatever, whenever we needed something to be done, (AUDIO GAP) Pat Ryder would do it and he would do it quietly, without much fanfare, and we know he would keep the confidentiality of our grand jury and our investigation. So I want to thank him for that.

And with that, I will turn it over to Commissioner Rodney Harrison.

TAPPER: We've been listening to an update out of Long Island, New York, Suffolk County District Attorney Tierney talking to us, giving us new details about a suspected serial killer named Rex Heuermann. He is a New York City architect. He pleaded not guilty today after being charged in connection with the deaths of three of the four women that had been known as the Gilgo four or the Gilgo Beach four. Four women found dead on the beach in Long Island.

Heuermann is the prime suspect in the disappearance and death of a fourth member of the group.

Let's bring back CNN's Brynn Gingras.

Brynn, obviously, a lot, a lot of work by investigators and lots of forensic details that we got and heard about ways that they figured out who in their view is the killer, stuff that police could not have done 10, 20, 30 years ago. What stood out to you the most from this press conference?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, I think they were so descriptive for two reasons. One, I think because they wanted to tell the public this is every step we took to make this case come to where it is today. And this, again, has haunted police, it's haunted that community. They wanted answers as to who may have committed these murders. So, that's one reason.

The second is you heard mitochondrial DNA. Now, actually had an up- close look being solved by the NYPD where mitochondrial DNA was used. If you heard the district attorney there, he said that they got his name, Rex Heuermann basically six weeks into forming the task force. Well, once you have a name the case works backwards. That's what he is describing for everyone.

They got this name, Rex Heuermann and then from there, they could go back to the evidence that they collected there at the scenes alongside that beach where the DNA, you know, had been weathered from storms. It wasn't that great. They couldn't put a name at that point. And they can figure out, oh, hey, there's a hair in one of -- in this evidence, that hair belongs to Rex Heuermann's wife, according to him.

So they basically work it as a puzzle backwards once they have that name. And then as I said, they were able to then go to the grand jury and start getting those search warrants, those subpoenas, and go forward with the investigation from that point forward which is basically, again, the cell phones, the burner phones, the searches that he was doing, of family members of the victims, the victims' names themselves, the sex workers he was still trying to reach with burner phones, and all of those details that are just so incredible to this investigation.

And again, you just heard him say there this was something that was continuing. They believe that he was still contacting sex workers and had to cut the investigation short because they were worried about the safety of others. But I think that is why he is being so detailed because that mitochondrial DNA is a very controversial topic. It is approved in the state of New York. It's done by the New York state police in a lab.

But it does come with a lot of controversy. I think they want to hammer home this is why we want this sort of technology because it helps clear cases like this one which has haunted communities for more than a decade.

TAPPER: Thank you so much, Brynn. Appreciate it.

Joining us to discuss, former FBI profiler and director of the forensic science program at George Mason University, Dr. Mary Ellen O'Toole.


We also have with us, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson.

Dr. O'Toole, good to see you again.

Based on the details of the suspect and details of how he allegedly murdered his victims, binding them at the head, midsection, and legs, binding them at the head, midsection, and legs, according to the D.A., as a profiler, what do you think motivated him to commit these heinous acts of violence based on -- I understand that we're just getting the information now. Based on what you've heard so far, what do you think his motivation could have been?

DR. MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: So with a complicated case like this there's never just one motive. But this is a serial sexual killer. So, these crimes were done for sexual purposes.

And then if you break out the elements of the case like the bondage on the victims and then we know after the fact that he would call and -- call the families' homes. It does seem to be that there's possibly some sadism involved in these cases. The autopsy will bring that out during the trial or court proceedings.

So, the acts of how he treated the victims during the murders, putting hands on them, binding them, each element was sexually arousing for him. So all of that becomes really the primary motive I think in this case.

TAPPER: And just to dive in a little bit more, drill down a little bit more, why call the victims' families and taunt them? I didn't -- I've seen stuff like that happening in movies. But I didn't know that kind of thing actually happened.

O'TOOLE: It does happen. It doesn't happen certainly in every case. But oftentimes when people engage in that kind of behavior, that in and of itself, hearing the fear in the person's voice, if the person receiving the call started to cry said, who are you, why are you doing this, that could be sexually arousing for the person who could be masturbating on the other end of the phone. I don't mean to be too graphic, but we know that's the behavior someone like that would engage in.

So wanting to hear the fear in their voices is really to me pretty indicative of sexual sadism which is being sexually aroused by the victim's response to the inflection of physical or emotional pain. So the physical pain was inflicted on the homicide victims. The emotional pain was inflicted on family members.

TAPPER: And, Joey, we just learned that hair from the suspect's wife was also found on or near the victims, although prosecutors noted that the wife was out of town. Explain to us the significance, how do you think prosecutors are going to use that?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, Jake. It's very significant inasmuch as it limits it down to him. What if the suspect's wife is out of town, then why would her hair be there if he's in town and cell tower and other information triangulates him there, et cetera. And so, it's something the prosecutors will use I think with great success.

Having said that, Jake, I wish to tell you that at this stage, the press conference seemed to be a victory lap, and it should not be, and here's why -- I don't mean to be the downer here. It's a significant development certainly to that community that someone has been brought to justice who they believe very strongly is the killer. We heard a lot of detailed information and evidence, much more detailed than I would imagine the D.A. would release at this point. But there's a long way to go. This is an indictment. And I just want

to be clear about what an indictment is. An indictment is an accusation brought by a grand jury which consists of 23 people from the community, a majority, that's 12, who have to vote on an indictment.

It is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It is simply an indication that a crime was committed, and the belief is that the suspect here committed it. And so it's very important as they have this victory lap drilling down on all the details and specifics with respect to the evidence they have which is a lot to overcome to be clear, that there's a lot more to go.

And this will be challenged in every regard, including the DNA and whether the testing, although DNA is significant, was done properly, whether there was any taint, any contamination. So very good development that they have a suspect and he was indicted, but it's a far cry from a conviction, and that remains to be seen whether they will get it notwithstanding the compelling evidence that seems to be released in that press conference.

TAPPER: Joey, Heuermann faces charges of first-degree murder and second-degree murder. Why?

JACKSON: Well, the reality is, is that in New York, first-degree murder can be pursued against you if you are, number one, first-degree murder in the commission of, for example, a kidnapping or a rape, there happens to be a murder, that's first degree. What is the distinction? New York doesn't have the death penalty. You can do up to 40 years in jail.

As it relates to a second-degree murder charge, premeditated murder in New York, that's 25 years to life. Whether first degree or second degree, certainly you're looking at a life sentence. But I think the distinction as to first was because of the fact of whether there was some sexual -- you know, certainly he took, that is the suspect, allegedly, if there was a rape or the kidnapping, that gets you to the first degree.


And as I noted, the second degree would be premeditated murder. So prosecutors, Jake, generally charge under both theories because that's what they believe they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

TAPPER: And Dr. O'Toole, a profile on a potential suspect compiled by experts, reported on by "The New York Times" in 2011 predicted, quote, he's most likely a white male in his mid 20s to mid 40s. He is married or has a girlfriend.

He is well-educated and well spoken. He is financially secure. He has a job and owns an expensive car or truck. He may have sought treatment at a hospital for a poison ivy infection as part of his job or interests. He has access to or stockpile of burlap sacks, unquote.

That is a rather specific profile and if Heuermann is ultimately responsible, incredibly accurate. How did forensic profilers go about making these predictions? Where did the poison ivy thing come from?

O'TOOLE: Well, these are really not predictions. What they've done is they obtained from investigators at the time all investigative reports, all the photographs. They developed all the victimology so they were -- they looked at all the forensic laboratory reports.

So from all of that information, that's what gives them the foundation to be able to say this is how we interpret all of this evidence as they put it together like a puzzle. So they're not guesses, they really are based on a complete, thorough, and extremely deep dive into the entire investigation based on actual reports.

TAPPER: Joey, is this heading -- going to be a life in print sentence if he's found guilty because there's no death penalty in New York?

JACKSON: Yeah, there's no question about that. And again, Jake, prior to that occurring, there will be a process. That process, of course, begins with what we see to be the arraignment. That simply means that you're informed of the charges against you, your right to get counsel, et cetera.

And then bail conditions are set. We know he'll be remanded. That means there is no set of bail which would allow for his release. Following that, there will be the exchange of discovery that is of specific information that was released today, to the defense. That will be challenged, and I would presume if there's no plea, there will be a trial. That will take several months, of course. Maybe even a lot longer than that.

And then there will be a jury empaneled of 12 who would have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt his guilt. And in the event that that occurs at some point, I believe which will be next year, if we're looking forward, if there's no plea before that, then without question based upon the horrific nature of these circumstances and these deaths, it's a life sentence.

TAPPER: And Dr. O'Toole, the profile coupled with human remains, the belt with initials on it, and on and on, why do you think it took so long to name a suspect?

O'TOOLE: Well, that type of evidence could not be analyzed years ago. The technology really didn't exist. So for example, years ago you had to make sure that there was a root on a hair so that you could obtain DNA. Now the technology has advanced. And now they can analyze hairs that don't have roots and obtain DNA.

So this technology in terms of the advances that we've seen in hair analysis and DNA have been absolutely tremendous and the kinds of information that we can get that will really hone in on a particular person is absolutely amazing. And these crimes were committed decades ago, so his lens is looking at the forensic evidence, him being the suspect, looking at forensic evidence from ten years ago which probably gave him confidence back then that they could never tie him to these cases.

These kinds of offenders don't anticipate that there will be these advances in forensic technology which is going to connect them to the case. So it's pretty amazing.

TAPPER: Joey, I thought it was interesting that the district attorney kept talking about the painstaking efforts they made to make sure that the suspect didn't know what they were doing, like a real cat and mouse from a drama about a serial killer. They were convinced that he was paying attention to see if anybody was on his trail.

JACKSON: Yeah. There's no question. I mean, when you conduct an investigation -- and to the police's credit, give them credit, there was a convened task force, as we heard the district attorney talk about, including the FBI, including the local sheriff, including a number of other authorities, including the state of New York, to bring about this effort to get that person. And doing that and conducting any investigation, you never want to tip off the defendant because of their activities and what they can do.

And so certainly you're going to be very careful as they were with regard to getting him.


But again, I would just hasten to add as compelling as it appears to be that the information is, we're a long way from a conviction. And I just was, again, frankly surprised at the nature of the detail that was released. I think the defense will be seizing upon this, looking for a gag order so that the defendant's rights are not prejudiced.

Remember, when you have a trial, you have to get a jury empaneled which will be fair and reasonable to get your conviction. And anything, if there's a release of information, the defense is going to say we can't have a fair trial, look at what the D.A. was talking about. How can I get a fair trial?

But we'll see what happens moving forward. But based upon what was released today, there is a lot for this defendant to overcome if there's to be a not guilty verdict. Certainly it's clear that they have done quite a bit, that is law enforcement, of work, and when they ultimately picked him up, Jake, they were clear last night that they believe they have their person.

TAPPER: Joey Jackson, Dr. Mary Ellen O'Toole, thanks to both of you for your expertise and your time.

Much more news still ahead including the major developments today in Donald Trump's legal fight.

But, first, the drama in Hollywood is not on your TV. It's not in the theaters, it's on the picket line as actors join the writers on strike. The president of the Screen Actors Guild, actress Fran Drescher, joins me ahead.



TAPPER: In our money lead, Hollywood is closed. Right now, a major union representing 160,000 actors is on strikes, joining the writers who have been on strike with the same studios and streaming services since early May. The main hang-ups between the two sides, actors and writers receive very little compensation with streaming services compared to what they get for reruns airing on network television. There are also major concerns about the future of artificial intelligence and the ability to replace voice actors and writers and even dancers.

Hollywood A-listers including George Clooney and Matt Damon are striking, too. But this is not about wealthy actors complaining about being less wealthy. Average actor makes only about $65,000 a year compared to say, George Clooney, and the inflation adjusted salary has dropped 20 percent over the past decade, and more broadly the issues at the center of the strike will change and potentially cripple the entertainment industry as we know it.

Most actors, writers, production crews are losing their ability to make a basic living. That has a trickle down effect to other industries outside of Hollywood.

And with us now to discuss this, actress Fran Drescher, you might know her from "The Nanny," I first noticed her in "This is Spinal Tap". She's president of the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA.

Thank you so much for being here, Ms. Drescher.

A lot of our viewers might be thinking these Hollywood actors, they make so much money, what's the big deal. Help them understand.

FRAN DRESCHER, PRESIDENT, SAG-AFTRA: Well, 99 percent of our members, the largest entertainment union in the world, are just working people, just trying to make a living, just trying to pay their rent, just trying to put food on the table and get their kids off to school. So, that is an illusion. And everything that you watch that you enjoy, that you're entertained by are scenes filled with people that are not making the big money. There may be one person in the scene that is, and everybody else are journeymen actors.

But we don't stand here just for us. We stand here on behalf of workers across America, and around the world because what's happening to us is not unique. It's just we're able to get people like you to listen to us.

But it's not just about us, and it's not just about the people in this industry. Everywhere across the nation and around the world, workers are being marginalized and dishonored and disrespected, and they're losing their livelihood, and it's a very dangerous time, and these people that are standing here, they know what that experience is because they are living it. Not entertainment of dystopia, actually living it, and not like the mega rich millionaires and billionaires who are running these companies. They are completely out of touch and tone deaf to what is going on.

TAPPER: One of the big sticking points in the negotiations with SAG- AFTRA, with you union, has to do with artificial intelligence or A.I. Your union rejected a reported proposal on A.I. on management for management.

Let's listen, I'm going to roll tape of your chief negotiator complaining why you rejected it.


DUNCAN CRABTREE-IRELAND, CHIEF NEGOTIATOR, SAG-AFTRA: They proposed that our background performers should be able to get scanned, be paid for one day's pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any projects they want with no consent and no compensation. So, if you think that's a ground breaking proposal, I suggest you think again.


TAPPER: There was literally an episode of the horror show "Black Mirror" on that -- based on that premise.

DRESCHER: Exactly.

TAPPER: What is the union's position on A.I.?

DRESCHER: And even that show -- you know, we want to talk about putting up barricades and not having this maniacal, greedy obsession to put people out of work because it's cheaper or more convenient to use A.I., without any thought or consciousness about all of the thousands of people that are systematically being put out of their livelihoods.

It's unconscionable. It's happening everywhere. I was in my neighborhood, I saw a little box rolling around making deliveries, and my heart broke because there used to be a person on the bicycle doing that. What happened to that person? Does anybody care?

TAPPER: Yeah. In response to the strike, TV and film studios responded, quote: The union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship, unquote.

How long is your union prepared to hold out, and are there resources available to help union members who are struggling get through this?

DRESCHER: Yes, there always is. The Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA is going to have an emergency fund set up with our foundation.


We're looking at the long, you know, haul. And we're looking six months down the road if we have to, but they can be talking to us right now. We would love to make it a six-hour strike. But they said that it will be a long time before we want to talk to you.

And the mentality of them, they said about the Writers Guild, well, if some people's lose their homes, that's a necessary evil.

So, that's who we're dealing with, and I hope the viewers that enjoy our entertainment give a second thought about where they put their hard earned dollars and what companies they are supporting because they don't care about you. They don't care about us. They only care about the almighty dollar and Wall Street.

TAPPER: Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC yesterday that there's a level of expectations that writers and actors have, in his view, quote, that is just not realistic, unquote. What's your response?

DRESCHER: My response is the man never set foot in the negotiations. Nobody saw him. He wasn't there. He's not -- he doesn't have any authority to speak on it with any credibility.

TAPPER: Fran Drescher, good luck out there. Thank you so much for your time.

DRESCHER: Thank you. I appreciate your support.

TAPPER: We have some CNN exclusive reporting. And brand new insight into special counsel Jack Smith's investigations into Donald Trump, the latest interviews that he's been conducting and what they might signal. That's next.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, a suspected serial killer has been arraigned. What we're learning about the New York City architect and married father of two who just made his first court appearance in connection with the deaths of several women on Long Island.

Plus, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans just teed up a show down with Senate Democrats over a hard right social agenda added to the defense bill, and now that bill for the entire Defense Department is getting bogged down in the culture wars.

And leading this hour, a CNN exclusive. According to sources, federal prosecutors have interviewed two more key election officials in their investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.