Prosecutor renews interest in old N.Y. serial killer case
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.
Emergency personnel use a chain saw April 11, 2011, to search through the brush for human remains near Jones Beach in Wantagh, N.Y.