It has been more than six years since Julia Ann Bean of South Carolina was last seen, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.
An investigation into what happened to Bean is “cold but not closed,” spokesperson Mark Bordeaux told The State Wednesday.
A potential connection to an accused serial killer could cause the investigation to heat up, and maybe bring closure to Bean’s family and friends.
Bordeaux confirmed that a friend of Bean’s family called a Sumter County detective, saying she was concerned that Bean could be a victim of Rex Heuermann, who has been dubbed the “Long Island Serial Killer” after being charged in three murders in New York.
After being shown a photo of Heuermann, who owns property in South Carolina, Bean’s daughter told the family friend that she recognized the 59-year-old as the last person she saw her mother with before Bean went missing in 2017, the New York Post reported. Bean’s daughter was not publicly identified.
Bean’s daughter told Sumter County deputies that the last time she spoke with her mother was May 17, 2017, according to Bordeaux.
Now 42, Bean was last seen in the Red Bay Road area on May 31, 2017, and was last on Facebook on June 8, 2017, according to the sheriff’s office. Bean was reported missing by her daughter on Nov. 18, 2017, according to Bordeaux, who said he didn’t know why there was such a gap between the time Bean was last seen and when she was reported missing.
As a result of the family friend’s recent call, Bordeaux said the sheriff’s office has contacted the FBI, just to make sure “they have all the information that we have,” Bordeaux said.
Additionally, Bean’s information has been added to a national missing persons database, and her fingerprints and family DNA have been added to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, according to Bordeaux.
Despite that, Bordeaux said the sheriff’s office could not say if Heuermann is being investigated in Bean’s disappearance. But he also said that Heuermann has not been ruled out from being investigated in connection to why Bean is missing.
“We can’t confirm or deny there’s a connection to a suspect with Mrs. Bean,” Bordeaux said. “We still hope we’ll get a tip or notified of a discovery.”
Bordeaux did say that Heuermann has no criminal record in Sumter County, and did not know of any connection the accused serial killer has to the Midlands.
Bean has not been declared dead, so she is not considered a homicide victim, according to Bordeaux. Technically her case is a missing persons investigation. Bordeaux said that means there’s hope that Bean might be alive.
“We don’t know that a crime has occurred, so we can’t call it a criminal investigation,” Bordeaux said. “But her disappearance is very concerning.”
The sheriff’s office said when Bean was last seen, she was described as a 5-foot-6, 110-pound woman with light brown hair and green eyes. Bean also has three tattoos — a tribal design on her lower back; the name “Scott” on her left hip; and eight small paw prints on her right hip, according to the sheriff’s office.
Bordeaux said deputies have turned over every stone and immersed themselves into the investigation, but will still likely need some help to ultimately close Bean’s case.
“We need something to take another step,” Bordeaux said. “We’re waiting on more information to come our way to get answers.”
Whether those answers will involve Heuermann isn’t know. But he has been connected to other crimes that originally started as cases involving missing women.
Between 2010 and 2011, the bodies of 10 homicide victims were found on Gilgo Beach in Long Island. The victims included eight women, an Asian man and a female toddler, CNN reported.
In July, Heuermann pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and three more of second-degree murder for the killings of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello in 2009 and 2010.
All had been in their 20s, petite and working as escorts, The New York Times reported. Their bodies were found wrapped in hunting camouflage burlap within a quarter mile of each other on a stretch of beach, according to the news outlet.
Heuermann was also identified as the prime suspect in the murder of a fourth victim, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, last seen alive on July 9, 2007, according to the New York Daily News.
No charges have been filed in the other deaths.
The investigation into Bean’s disappearance is not Heuermann’s only connection to South Carolina.
Property records in Chester County show Heuermann bought about 18 acres of land on Rippling Brooke Drive in the Mirror Lakes subdivision on July 28, 2021, for $154,351. Heuermann planned to retire in Chester County, according to the Chester News and Reporter.
County records include a photo of the property hidden by a tall wooden fence and overgrown bushes, The State previously reported. On the gate are signs saying “Keep Out/No Trespassing” and, “No Warrant/No Entry.”
The Chester County Sheriff’s Office said it’s working with the Gilgo Beach Task Force “gathering evidence in Chester County relevant to their investigation.”
In late July, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office confiscated a Chevrolet Avalanche pickup truck from the property, the New York Daily News reported.
Arrest warrants show Heuermann was connected to the Gilgo Beach killings by his dark-colored Chevy Avalanche pickup, according to WSOC.
Bean’s daughter said she last saw her mother at a nail salon, where she was dropped off by a man driving a dark truck that she now believes to be Heuermann, although he introduced himself by a different name, the family friend said, according to the New York Post.
Sumter County detectives have not heard from Bean’s daughter in a while, according to Bordeaux. They would love to get back in touch with her for any more updates on the investigation, Bordeaux said.
Heuermann is also being investigated in Rock Hill, where police said they are probing a connection between Aaliyah Bell, who was 18 when she disappeared from her Rock Hill home on Nov. 25, 2014.
“Our investigators have been reviewing any information to see if there is a correlation between the disappearance of Aaliyah Bell and Rex Heuermann,” Lt. Michael Chavis said to the New York Daily News. “So far there is no indication that leads us to identify Heuermann as a suspect in this case.”
Anyone with information about Bean, or her disappearance, is asked to call the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at 803-436-2000, CrimeStoppers at 888-CRIME-SC or submit an online tip.