In late 1993 and early 1994, the bodies of 31-year-old Rita Tangredi and 20-year-old Colleen McNamee were found nine-miles apart. Both had been strangled and bludgeoned to death. DNA samples were taken from the bodies and the cases remained cold for over ten years – until an uninvolved man’s misdemeanor conviction steered investigators toward the killer. Today, investigators see similarities between the murders and the decades-old Long Island (Gilgo Beach) serial killer case.
The deaths of Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee
Colleen McNamee was last seen January 5, 1994, getting into a small blue car in front of the Blue Dawn Diner in Islandia, New York. Rita Tangredi was last seen hitchhiking November 2, 1993, on Montauk Highway, east of County Road 101, in East Patchogue, New York.
On Nov. 2, 1993, Rita Tangredi, 31, was found nude in a wooded area off Esplanade Drive near South Country Road in East Patchogue. She had been beaten and strangled to death. Two months later, on Jan. 30, 1994, the body of 20-year-old Colleen McNamee was found by a youth riding an ATV in the woods east of William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, New York. McNamee was also found nude, beaten and strangled to death.
A misdemeanor arrest breaks the case
In 2013, Timothy Bittrolff of Shirley, New York was convicted for violating an order of protection. During booking, per New York law, a sample of his DNA was submitted. The sample indicated a partial match to DNA left on the two dead women. Police began looking at Timothy’s two brothers as potential suspects.
First, police retrieved a cigarette butt from Kevin Bittrolff. The DNA was not a match so surveillance was set up on the remaining brother, 51-year-old John Bittrolff. When he toted nine bags of trash to the curb, they swept in to retrieve evidence. A DNA match was confirmed but John lived with his wife and two children so police could not definitively tie John to the DNA collected from the victim’s.
Knowing Bittrolff was a carpenter, and wood chips had been found on both victim’s bodies, authorities were certain they had their man. Bittrolff was brought in for questioning and given a cup of coffee to calm his nerves. DNA from the coffee cup produced a match and Bittrolff was arrested. Despite the loss of 148 pieces of evidence collected ten years earlier, Bittrolff was convicted on July 5, 2017 for the murders.
Potential connection to Long Island Beach murders
Both Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee were known drug addicts and prostitutes – similar to the nearly dozen victims of the Long Island Serial Killer. After sentencing on September 12, 2017, police revealed the 51-year-old father-of-two may be responsible for at least one of the 11 unsolved killings of people along a Long Island beach highway. Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said after the sentencing that remains of some victims found along Gilgo Beach “may be attributed to the handiwork of Mr. Bittrolff.” He told reporters:
“Bittrolff picked these women because they were vulnerable. He picked them because he thought no one cared about them. But there were people who cared about these girls.”
The remains of the Long Island Serial Killer victims were found strewn along several miles of thicket adjacent to Ocean Parkway, east of Jones Beach on Long Island. Some of the remains found along the parkway were linked to the partial remains of a woman whose body was found in Manorville, about 40 miles away – less than a mile from John Bittrolff’s home.
John Bittrolff biography
John Bittrolff was born July 1, 1966 and graduated from William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, New York. At the time of his arrest, he lived in Manorville, New York. He had previously lived in Center Moriches, New York.