This is a pretty incredible story. In 1993, thirty-one-year-old Rita Tangredi’s body was discovered in a Long Island wooded area. Three months later, the body of twenty-year-old Colleen McNamee was also found. Both had been known to work as prostitutes and both bodies were strangled, beaten, and discarded in a wooded area. This week, twenty years later, a forty-eight-year-old local from Manorville, New York named John Bittrolff has been charged in their murders and police are investigating his involvement with another 1993 murder in Suffolk County, that of Sandra Costilla.
Probably one of the most remarkable aspects of the case is not the length of time that has passed since the murders, but how his arrest came to be. Bittrolff’s brother, Timothy, was arrested last year and convicted of an unrelated assault. When Timothy’s DNA was collected, police ran it through the computer and realized that his DNA was extremely close to the DNA collected from the murder victims in the 90s. So close, in fact, that the killer must have had the same parents as the man they had in custody. This is first time I have ever heard of investigators locating a murder suspect in this way. Police learned Timothy had a brother named John and brought him in for questioning. While he was at the station, he reportedly drank from a plastic cup of water, which police immediately sent to the lab for DNA testing. It was a perfect match. Unbelievable.
If you’ve been following my blog, you probably perked up at the mention of “Long Island” and “Suffolk County,” where police uncovered ten bodies in 2010 and 2011 that have all since been linked to the same killer. Only five of those victims have been identified, and all five were found to be working as private escorts or prostitutes. The killer seems to have remained dormant since his last known murder in 2010. While there have been several murders in the area recently (twenty-one-year-old Sarah Goode in Medfield, and another victim whose dismembered body parts were discovered in different locations in the Hempstead area last week), it seems as if those cases may be isolated incidents and completely unrelated to the other ten victims found a few years ago. Here’s the question we’re all wondering: Could John Bittrolff actually be the Long Island Serial Killer? Well, police are saying it’s too early to link him to those crimes and it is likely the two are completely unrelated. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota spoke to the media yesterday. “The evidence recovered from Tangredi and McNamee, the manner in which their bodies were found, and the crime scenes are unique to them and distinctly different from the Gilgo crime scenes,” he said.
So who is John Bittrolf anyway? And does his profile match up with what FBI experts suspect about the Long Island Serial Killer? Let’s take a closer look. In April of 2011, The New York Times reported it is likely the serial killer is a white male between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five. John Bittrolff is a forty-eight year old white male (interesting how he was actually forty-five in 2011). FBI profilers and serial killer experts believe the LISK may be married or have a stable girlfriend. They also believe he is employed, financially secure, and possibly works at a job that would give him access to burlap sacks, such as landscaping, contracting, or fishing. Bittrolff is a married father of two who works as a carpenter. I’m not too familiar with the field of carpentry–does it involve burlap sacks? That would be an interesting bit of information if true.
Experts also believe the LISK is probably an educated and well-spoken individual. Neighbors of Bittrolff have come forward this week claiming he knows everyone in their neighborhood and is incredibly friendly and helpful. One of the neighbors went so far as to say he is like the town “mayor.” Other FBI profilers and serial killer experts suspect the LISK may be a local or a seasonal vacationer of the area. Many believe the locations of the disposal sites indicate his familiarity with the area. This certainly matches up.
One thing is for sure—police aren’t rushing this one. They charged Bittrolff with the murders of Tangredi and McNamee this week and they are actively working to connect him to Costilla. If they have DNA evidence from the LISK’s victims, I am sure they are actively looking into that as well. It’s important to note that some of LISK’s victims were dismembered, while the three victims allegedly connected to Bittrolff were not. The MO for each of these cases appears to be different, which could very well indicate two separate killers. Is it possible Tangredi, McNamee, and Costilla are Bittrolff’s only victims? If so, what do you think made him lie dormant for twenty years?
Interested in reading more about the Long Island Serial Killer? Check out RJ Parker’s Serial Killers Abridged, which published May 31, 2014. I wrote the 101st case file in the book, highlighting the details of this particular case.