The smell of death

There’s a chance Joel Rifkin would never have been caught….

Pick Me Up! Special - - Contents -

As the Mazda pick-up truck drove by on the New York high­way, po­lice no­ticed that it was miss­ing a rear li­cense plate.

They or­dered the driver, Joel Rifkin, to pull over, but in­stead, he ac­cel­er­ated.

It trig­gered a high speed chase, with five other pa­trol ve­hi­cles join­ing the pur­suit.

It was an ex­treme re­ac­tion to a sim­ple traf­fic stop.

Fi­nally, Rifkin lost con­trol of the ve­hi­cle and crashed into a util­ity pole out­side of a lo­cal court house.

As of­fi­cers ap­proached the car, they no­ticed a foul stench com­ing from the trunk.

When they opened it up, they phys­i­cally retched.

Sud­denly, the crime of a

miss­ing li­cense plate paled into in­signif­i­cance…

Joel Rifkin had strug­gled to fit in grow­ing up. He was awk­ward and re­lent­lessly bul­lied.

He felt iso­lated, so re­treated into his own world, where he started to have fan­tasies about be­ing vi­o­lent to­wards women.

Around the same time, he watched the Al­fred Hitch­cock film Frenzy, which is loosely based on the Jack the Ripper mur­ders, and be­came fix­ated on the idea of stran­gling pros­ti­tutes.

When Rifkin’s mum gave him a car, he’d cruise around Man­hat­tan, pick­ing up sex work­ers in the area.

He’d skip col­lege classes to find women to have sex with.

It left him in debt and saw him drop out of col­lege.

Rifkin lost job af­ter job, mean­ing he spent most of the 1980s liv­ing at home in Long Is­land with his mum. By March 1989, hav­ing sex with pros­ti­tutes wasn’t enough. When his mum was away, he picked up a young sex worker called ‘Susie’. She was never iden­ti­fied. Back at his house, Rifkin blud­geoned her with an ar­tillery shell, be­fore stran­gling her to death. ‘I just lost con­trol,’ he’d later con­fess. ‘I stopped

when I got tired.’

He dis­mem­bered her body with a knife, sev­ered her fin­ger­tips, and re­moved her teeth with pli­ers to hide her iden­tity.

Af­ter stuff­ing her head in a paint can, and body parts in rub­bish bags, Rifkin scat­tered them across woods and in a river.

It was the start of a five-year pe­riod of bru­tal mur­ders.

A year later, he killed Julie Black­bird – again, he brought her back to the house for sex, but beat her to death with a ta­ble leg.

Af­ter dis­mem­ber­ing the corpse, Rifkin placed the pieces in buck­ets weighed down with con­crete and tossed them into the East River and Brook­lyn Canal.

In 1991, he half-heart­edly started a land­scap­ing busi­ness. But his pas­sion was mur­der. He’d pick women who were drug

ad­dicts, try­ing to feed their habit with pros­ti­tu­tion.

Bar­bara Ja­cobs, 31, was clubbed to death with the same ta­ble leg that he’d used to kill Julie Black­bird.

Ad­dict Mary Ellen Deluca, 22, was last seen alive leav­ing friends to earn the price of her next fix. Rifkin stran­gled her af­ter sex. Lor­raine Orvi­eto, 28, was mur­dered and stuffed in an old drum be­fore be­ing dropped in a creek.

At 39, Mary Ann Hol­lo­man was his old­est vic­tim, an ad­dict work­ing the streets. The vic­tim that fol­lowed Yun Lee, 31, was never iden­ti­fied.

Rifkin picked up Iris Sanchez, a 25-year-old crack ad­dict and stran­gled

her dur­ing sex. Anna Lopez, 33, was stran­gled in Rifkin’s car. Vi­o­let O’neill, 21, ended up in the Hud­son River. Mary Cather­ine Wil­liams, 31 came next. Jenny Soto, 23, was the last vic­tim of 1992, and Rifkin would later ad­mit she proved ‘the tough­est one to kill.’ She broke all 10 finger­nails as she clawed Rifkin’s face and neck. In 1993, Leah Evens, 28, was stran­gled to death and Lau­ren Mar­quez, 28, had her neck snapped. Be­cause Rifkin picked women with drug prob­lems and records for so­lic­it­ing, the po­lice strug­gled to

iden­tify vic­tims – or even con­nect the cases.

They didn’t even know a se­rial killer needed to be found.

Then in June 1993, Rifkin, who was now 34, picked up Tif­fany Bres­ciani, 22.

She had been drawn to New York by her dreams of be­com­ing an ac­tress or a dancer.

In­stead, she’d ended up hooked on heroin and forced into strip­ping and sell­ing her body to pay for it.

Rifkin killed her, then wrapped her body in tar­pau­lin be­fore leav­ing her in a wheel­bar­row in his garage, in the sum­mer heat, for three whole days.

Neigh­bours could smell the de­cay – they of­ten did. But they as­sumed it was some­thing to do with his gar­den busi­ness. Tif­fany was the girl­friend of

David Ru­bin­stein – singer and co-founder of the New York-based hard­core punk band Rea­gan Youth.

He was the last to see Tif­fany and the grief de­stroyed him.

David com­mit­ted sui­cide a week af­ter learn­ing about her mur­der.

On June 28, 1993, Rifkin was on the high­way, on his way to dump Tif­fany’s rot­ting body, and he’d loaded her into the boot.

He was 15 miles north of his home, when traf­fic cops spot­ted he was miss­ing a li­cense plate.

When they tried to pull him over, Rifkin pan­icked and sped away.

A chase reached speeds of 90 miles an hour, sirens wail­ing, be­fore Rifkin crashed into a pole.

As of­fi­cers ap­proached the ve­hi­cle, that’s when they no­ticed the stench com­ing from the truck. Rifkin’s reign of ter­ror was over. ‘Do you think I need a lawyer?’ he asked.

He had Nox­ema on his mous­tache – a strong smelling cream that helps deal with the smell of corpses.

In cus­tody, Rifkin started talk­ing about the woman in the boot. ‘She’s

num­ber 17,’ he said, calmly.

It was a stag­ger­ing con­fes­sion they weren’t ex­pect­ing from the quiet, awk­ward man.

He wrote down the names he could re­mem­ber and even drew maps of the dump­ing grounds.

It had taken po­lice five years to cap­ture him – and a mat­ter of hours for him to con­fess to a string of mur­ders.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors searched his home. In his bed­room, they found 75 pieces of women’s jew­ellery that he’d taken from his vic­tims.

In the garage, they found three ounces of hu­man blood in the wheel­bar­row, tools coated in con­gealed blood and a chain­saw that had blood and hu­man flesh stuck in the blades.

Joel Rifkin is now serv­ing 203 years in the Clin­ton Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity in New York.

He is el­i­gi­ble for pa­role in 2197, at the age of 238.

By pure ac­ci­dent, po­lice caught one of New York’s most no­to­ri­ous se­rial killers – a man they weren’t even look­ing for.

The se­rial killer was caught af­ter a sim­ple traf­fic stop Neigh­bours no­ticed the stench

He tar­geted the vul­ner­a­ble

Jenny Soto put up a brave fight

He drew maps of his dump sights

There was a body in the boot

Rifkin lived with his mum

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