A 48-year-old married father of two has been charged in the strangling deaths of two women whose naked bodies were found in the woods on Long Island more than 20 years ago, and police believe he may be responsible for another slaying around the same time, prosecutors say.
John Bittrolff was arrested at his home in Manorville early Monday on two counts of second-degree murder after detectives linked his DNA to the decades-old crime scenes, Suffolk County police say.
The carpenter is charged in the deaths of 31-year-old Rita Tangredi and 20-year-old Colleen McNamee, who were found nude in Suffolk County woods in the early 1990s. Both women had been beaten and strangled, police say.
Tangredi, who had no known address when she died, was discovered in the woods near Esplanade Drive in East Patchogue on Nov. 2, 1993. McNamee was from Holbrook and was found in the woods near William Floyd Parkway in Shirley on Jan. 30, 1994.
Police say that detectives originally assigned to the cases collected DNA evidence that connected the killings, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that investigators linked the samples to a suspect. Prosecutors say Bittrolff's brother, who had been convicted of criminal attempt for violating orders of protection, submitted his own DNA in 2013 in compliance with a state law, and investigators were able to determine that DNA recovered from the crime scenes belonged to a relative of his.
They traced it to Bittrolff and took him into custody.
Police called Monday’s arrest significant and said that Bittrolff could be connected to other deaths on Long Island dating back to the 1990s, including the murder of Sandra Castilla, who was found in the community of North Sea in Southampton in December 1993. Authorities say the manner of death and body position in the Castilla case were similar to the Tangredi and McNamee cases.
Bittrolff has not been charged in the Castilla case.
Bittrolff was held without bail after his arraignment Tuesday morning. No one answered the door of his home when NBC 4 New York knocked on the door and his attorney left court without commenting.
Neighbors were shocked by the charges.
"He drives by, I drive by, we wave. Always congenial," said Gregg Tomasello. "Just amazing that this happened."
"I feel bad for his wife and kids," he added. "His son just graduated high school."
Glenn Tomasello said he thought Bittrolff was an "all-around family man, nothing strange or out of the ordinary. "
"For something to pop up like this 20 yeas down the road, it's crazy," he said.
Law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York there is no link between the McNamee and Tangredi murders and the discovery of 10 sets of human remains found off Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach between December 2010 and April 2011.
One source said there are "significant dissimilarities" between the killings.
Police are asking anyone with information about Bittrolff’s activities in the early 1990s to call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.