MANORVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island man was charged earlier this week in two murders, both dating back more than 20 years.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, John Bittrolff, 48, of Manorville, was arrested this past Monday and charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee.
The naked body of Tangredi was found on Nov. 2, 1993, in a wooded area off Esplanade Drive in East Patchogue, police said. She had been beaten and strangled, and her body was found in a unique pose.
Tangredi, 31 – also identified as Rita Tangredi-Beinlich – had been seen hitchhiking the night before on Montauk Highway east of County Road 101 in East Patchogue, police said in an earlier bulletin archived by Newsday.
McNamee’s body was found in the woods near Express Drive South near the William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, on Jan. 30, 1994, police said. She was also found naked in a unique pose and had been beaten and strangled, police said.
McNamee, 20, was last seen on Jan. 5, 1994, getting into a small blue car outside the Blue Dawn Diner in Islandia, police said in the archived release. She was an outpatient of the South Shore Treatment Center in Islandia, police said.
Both Tangredi and McNamee had been arrested previously for prostitution, police said in the archived release.
Bittrolff is also suspected in a third victim, authorities said. The body of Sandra Costilla was found in a wooded area in North Sea 18 days after Tangreedi’s body was found, according to a Riverhead News Review report this week.
Detectives at the original crime scenes recovered DNA evidence that linked the case. Over 20 years later, police traced the cold cases to Bittrolff, police said.
And when Bittrolff was named the accused killer, he was plucked from a typical suburban life – a husband and a father of two boys, one of them college-bound. He worked as a carpenter and lived among friendly neighbors.
“We both became friends quickly, and he was a nice guy. He has a nice wife; good kids,” said neighbor Roger Schwarting.
“He did my upstairs bathroom,” said neighbor George O’Toole.
O’Toole said he never suspected Bittrolff. But then, with homes in Manorville acres apart and surrounded by woods, people said they do not really know their neighbors.
“Believe me, he was pleasant — and that was the crazy part of it, that he really fooled us,” O’Toole said.
But prosecutors said you cannot fool DNA. The Tangredi and McNamee murder cases cracked after Bitrolff’s brother, Timothy Bitrolff, was arrested in an unrelated recent case and was required to submit a DNA sample.
“We now have positive scientific confirmation that the brother, John Bitrolff, is the killer,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said on Wednesday.
If Birtolff is a killer as alleged, he was hiding in plain sight, Gusoff reported. He has had no run-ins with the law in 20 years.
Bittrolff operates two contracting companies-out of his home, and is an avid hunter with a house upstate and an animal lover. He regularly hosted hosting family members in the home he built himself.
“Good father,” said Bitrolff’s uncle, Sheldon Saslona. “He took them for karate classes. He took them for baseball. He took them for football.”
Saslona was floored by the arrest.
“He always helped everybody. It’s just unbelievable. Nobody can believe it,” he said.
It was just as much of a surprise to the victims’ families, who never heard of Bitrolff until this week. A family member of one of the victims said she never thought the day would come when the case would be solved.
Neighbors said Bitrolff appeared to be happy-go-lucky guy, and they hoped there had been some mistake. But prosecutors said there is more yet-to-be-revealed evidence than just the DNA match linking him to the killings.
Suffolk County police have asked that anyone with any information about Bittrolff or the victims in the 1990s, to call the Suffolk County Homicide Squad at (631) 852-6392 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 220-TIPS.
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