N.Y. man seized in chase said to admit killing 17 Woman's body found in truck

June 29, 1993|By New York Daily News

MINEOLA, N.Y. -- A suspect chased on traffic violations has confessed to killing 17 women in the Long Island region, say New York state troopers. Police found the body of one victim in the back of the suspect's pickup truck.

The state troopers tailing Joel Rifkin, 34, before dawn yesterday were sure he wanted to get arrested. First, there were no license plates on his pickup. Then Mr. Rifkin tried to lose them in what only can be described as a slow-speed chase, never exceeding 50 mph on the Southern State Parkway during the 20-minute pursuit. He finally obliged them by crashing into a utility pole in Mineola.

After the troopers handcuffed the landscaper, one of them noticed a terrible odor and flashed a light onto a blue vinyl tarp. One trooper rolled it back and discovered a body.

"I killed her," Troopers Deborah Spaargaren and Sean Ruane said Mr. Rifkin told them. "She was a prostitute."

The 5-foot-10, gray-eyed confessed killer later claimed 16 more victims -- all picked up on his drives through the region. He said he had sex with them first, then killed them.

"All indications are that we have in custody a person who has committed multiple homicides," state police Maj. Anthony DiResta said. "The degree of detail provided in the suspect's description gives us reason to believe this may be the largest case of serial murder since the Arthur Shawcross killings around Rochester in 1987 and 1989."

The first admission was cold and unemotional, the troopers later told their superiors. Mr. Rifkin, they said, admitted picking the woman up near Williamsburg Bridge in Manhattan last Thursday night. He told police he strangled her and hid her body for three days before placing it in the truck, and said he was headed to Republic Airport in Farmingdale.

The murder suspect was led back to the Troop L Barracks in Farmingdale, where he was questioned by state investigators. Steadily, over six hours, Mr. Rifkin confessed to a stunning list of murders.

"I killed 17," police said Mr. Rifkin finally admitted.

Troopers said he gave them specific information on how he had suffocated or strangled 17 women, how he favored white, Latino and Asian women, and how he dumped or buried the bodies.

As of last night, state investigators believed they had linked Mr. Rifkin to two murders. They believe he killed the woman whose body was in the truck and they believe he killed another prostitute in Southampton Township last month.

"He never gave us motive," a law enforcement source said.

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