RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island father was on trial Wednesday, accused of in the murders of two women two decades ago.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, John Bittrolff, 48, of Manorville, was arrested in July 2014 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.
“Just nice to see justice served,” said Tangredi’s son, Anthony Tangredi.
Anthony Tangredi could barely speak after hearing the wrenching details of his mother’s murder when he was a little boy. She was strangled and her skull was shattered.
“Nothing could be harder for a little boy to lose his mom,” he said, adding that he “gave up hope a long time ago” that the killer would ever be caught.
But Bittrolff – a carpenter and married father of two – was plucked from his ordinary life after DNA matched the two cold murder cases.
In the three years since he was arrested, Bittrolff has maintained his innocence from jail with his family behind him.
Trusting neighbors were stunned.
“Whenever I needed him, he always helped everybody,” one man said. “It’s just unbelievable. Nobody can believe it..”
“He’s like the mayor of this town. He knows everybody. He helps everybody out,” another man said.
But prosecutors say DNA in this case is the witness to the truth
“It happens,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota. “We don’t know everything of the dark side of people’s lives, but again, we present our evidence and we’ll leave it up to the jury.”
Prosecutors told the jury the case is about science, given that the women were found naked in the unique poses and covered in wood chips.
Prosecutors said genetic material was also left on both victims.
The case cracked after Bitroff’s brother was arrested in unrelated crime. His DNA was a partial match with the killer.
Investigators would search the garbage of a Manorville house to find a match in Bittrolff
The defense blasted police for losing evidence, pointing out DNA does not prove murder and that there were others with motives.
And the jury was offered no hint of a motive — why a man would commit murder twice and keep a dark secret for 20 years.
Bittrolff turned down a plea deal. The trial could take ten weeks.
Despite obvious similarities, prosecutors have said there is no evidence linking Bittrolff with the still unsolved Gilgo Beach killings involving sex workers.