RIVERHEAD, NY — A carpenter was convicted on Wednesday of murdering two prostitutes found beaten to death in the 1990s. John Bittrolff, a 51-year-old married father of two, faces 50 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in September. His case, prosecutors say, is the first conviction of a homicide in New York state that involved the use of “partial match” DNA.
The naked body of Rita Tangredi was found on November 2, 1993, in a wooded area in East Patchogue. Twenty-year-old Colleen McNamee’s body was found in the woods near the William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, on January 30, 1994. Both women had been beaten and strangled, and also suffered severe head injuries. Police say both bodies were found in “unique” poses.
Bittrolff was arrested in 2014 after homicide detectives were able to link evidence found on the women’s remains to his DNA. At the time, his shocked neighbors described him as friendly and helpful.
His attorney, William Keahon, has said his client will appeal and insisted that “proof of sexual intercourse doesn’t mean murder.”
The DNA case against Bittfolff began when his brother, Timothy Bittrolff, submitted a DNA sample following his misdemeanor conviction for violating an order of protection in 2013. After the analysis of the sample indicated it was a partial match to DNA left on the two dead women, investigators looked at Timothy Bittrolff’s brothers.
Police were able to retrieve a cigarette butt that one brother, Kevin Bittrolff, had tossed from his car — but the DNA wasn’t a match. Next, investigators then set up a camera outside John Bittrolff’s home, and were able to see when he put nine bags of trash outside. After they went through the garbage, DNA was retrieved from a plastic cup they found and was determined to be a match with the material found on the dead women.
Bittrolff was arrested, and when he sipped from a coffee cup during questioning, authorities got another sample of his DNA, which they said matched evidence taken from the crime scene.
Police on Long Island are still investigating the unsolved killings of 10 victims of an apparent serial killer of prostitutes, who has been nicknamed the “Long Island Serial Killer” or “Gilgo Beach Killer.” So far, police have revealed no link between Bittrolff’s murders and those deaths.
Main photo: John Bittrolff [Suffolk Police Department]