It bothers me that police have been so quick to dismiss any connections between John Bittrolff, the man arrested earlier this week for two cold case murders in the 90s, and the Long Island Serial Killer. Maybe they are just taking their time to piece together a strong case against him. Or maybe they do have some sort of evidence that clearly proves he’s not the killer and they are keeping it from the public so as not to compromise the case. In my last post, I noted that Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota told the media this week, “There is no evidentiary or investigative link between these two murders and any of the Gilgo victims. 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.” This may be true, but there is a rather large connection that the police are failing to bring up, mainly that torsos from two of the LISK victims were recovered in the Manorville pine barrens, a mere three miles from where Bittrolff lived. UPDATE: Check out an interactive map I put together of the victims’ locations in relation to Bittrolff’s known residences here.
Let’s journey back before anyone ever knew a serial killer was leaving bodies around the beaches of Long Island. In November of 2000, a decomposing body of a woman was discovered in garbage bags in a wooded area off Halsey Manor Road in Manorville, NY. She was approximately 5’2″ and between the ages of 18 and 35. Her identity remains unknown. Her head and her hands were missing.
In 2003, another female body was found in the Manorville pine barrens. She too was found headless, with no hands, but police were able to determine her identity–she was a twenty-year-old woman named Jessica Taylor who had been working as a prostitute. On her lower right back, she had a tattoo that appeared to have been mutilated, possibly to discourage identification of the body. It said, ‘Remy’s girl.’ Police later announced that ‘Remy’ was a friend of Jessica’s, but they refused to release any additional information about him.
Then, in March and April of 2011, while looking for more remains in the Gilgo Beach area, police discovered the heads and hands of both Jessica Taylor and the unknown female (now dubbed Jane Doe #6) from the Manorville crime scenes. While these two victims were disposed of differently from the other eight victims, they were found in such close proximity of a number of the other victims, and so were included in the count of ten LISK victims. And they have a distinct link to Manorville.
In addition, the third victim police are trying to link Bittrolff to, Sandra Costilla, who was found in North Sea in December of 1993, was posed in a similar manner to the other two victims that are linked to his DNA, but unlike those two victims, there are reports that her body was mutilated in some manner after her death. If they are able to link Bittrolff to Costilla’s murder, they then have a killer in custody who mutilates some of his victims, but not all–a killer whose MO changes from victim to victim.
While police can tell the media that the crime scenes are unique and the evidence collected from the victims doesn’t suggest a link, it seems to me the Manorville connection, the fact that all of the identified victims were prostitutes (or living similar lifestyles), and the fact that a number of the bodies were mutilated or dismembered in some way are three extremely BIG links. In addition to Jessica Taylor and Jane Doe #6, four other victims were found in the Manorville area between the years of 2000 and 2012 (two more females and two males). In all, there are a total of seventeen bodies possibly linked here–four men, twelve women, and one toddler.
If Bittrolff has been killing for over twenty years, I think it’s likely his methods of killing and disposal of the bodies could have evolved over time. I don’t believe comparing the crime scenes and the manner in which the bodies were discarded is terribly important when you are dealing with someone who allegedly started killing in his twenties and has since grown into a middle-aged man. Just some food for thought.
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.