Pros­e­cu­tor re­news in­ter­est in old N.Y. se­rial killer case

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NATION - By Frank Elt­man

MINEOLA, N.Y. — For years, the thicket along a beach high­way on Long Is­land held a hor­ri­ble se­cret. Hid­den from pass­ing driv­ers were the skele­tal re­mains of 10 peo­ple, mostly young women who had worked as pros­ti­tutes. Who killed them, and why, is a mystery that has vexed a slew of sea­soned homi­cide de­tec­tives.

The case took an in­trigu­ing turn when a vet­eran county pros­e­cu­tor be­came the first au­thor­ity to pub­licly name a sus­pect in at least one of the deaths: John Bit­trolff, a Long Is­land car­pen­ter who was sen­tenced to con­sec­u­tive 25 years-to-life terms in prison this week for beat­ing two pros­ti­tutes to death in 1993 and 1994.

Robert Bian­cav­illa, an as­sis­tant dis­trict at­tor­ney in Suf­folk County, said after the sen­tenc­ing that some of the re­mains found near Gilgo Beach “may be at­trib­uted to the hand­i­work of Mr. Bit­trolff.” Bian­cav­illa de­clined to elab­o­rate. Any sug­ges­tion that Bit­trolff had any­thing to do with the dead women is “laugh­able,” said his lawyer, Jonathan Man­ley.

Even a lawyer for the fam­ily of one of those linked to the case ex­pressed skep­ti­cism.

“To stir this pot when there’s no ev­i­dence is look­ing to eas­ily blame a con­victed killer and not have to per­form the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that is re­quired,” said John Ray, an at­tor­ney for the fam­ily of Shan­nan Gil­bert, whose dis­ap­pear­ance in 2010 sev­eral miles from Gilgo Beach trig­gered the hunt that ex­posed the larger mystery.

Gil­bert, a 24-year-old sex worker, van­ished in spring 2010.

Months later, a po­lice of­fi­cer and his ca­daver dog were look­ing for her body in the thicket along Ocean Park­way when they hap­pened upon the re­mains of a dif­fer­ent wo­man. Within days, three other bod­ies were found, all within a short walk of one an­other.

By spring 2011, that num­ber had climbed to 10 sets of hu­man re­mains, all found along sev­eral miles of park­way.

Bit­trolff was ar­rested in 2014 in an un­re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing the deaths of the two pros­ti­tutes.

Bit­trolff, 51, was con­victed after in­ves­ti­ga­tors linked his DNA to sub­stances found on the women’s bod­ies.

Seth Wenig The As­so­ci­ated Press

Emer­gency per­son­nel use a chain saw April 11, 2011, to search through the brush for hu­man re­mains near Jones Beach in Wan­tagh, N.Y.

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