John Bittrolff might be the Long Island serial killer.
We’re not saying that he is. We’re just saying that it’s very possible.
John Bittrolff is not a popular suspect on Websleuths, Reddit and other online communities because his background isn’t “exciting” enough.
Over the years, many amateur detectives have convinced themselves that a conspiracy is afoot. They believe that the authorities are protecting LISK. Some even think that a gang of killers might be responsible.
All in all, it seems as though they are expecting a Hollywood ending to all of this. They are waiting for the day when it is finally revealed that the Long Island serial killer is a powerful or wealthy individual.
Many of them do not want the perpetrator to be an unknown carpenter who was never on their radar.
The problem here is that a lot of people are studying the LISK case in a vacuum.
They have never researched serial killers in general. Their knowledge of BTK, Bundy and Gacy doesn’t extend past a Netflix documentary that they glanced at a few times while they were looking at their phones.
As a result, they’re expecting the Long Island serial killer to be a completely different beast than what we’ve already encountered.
John Bittrolff is a strong suspect in the Long Island serial killer case.
John Bittrolff is a strong suspect in the Long Island killer case.
Internet sleuths might disagree with that statement. However, they are wrong.
Firstly, Bittrolff is a convicted murderer with a history of sexual violence.
In the early nineties, he killed two sex workers named Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee. The police also suspect that he murdered another woman called Sandra Costilla in November of 1993.
These three women were raped, strangled, beaten and then “posed” in wooded areas that were a couple of feet from the road.
The victim types are similar.
Bittrolff’s victims were all petite and small in height, standing at around 5 feet tall.
This is noteworthy, as most of the victims in the Long Island serial killer case were sex workers who were also small in stature:
- Valerie Mack was 5 feet tall.
- Jessica Taylor was 5 ft 3.
- Amber Lynn Costello was 5 ft.
- Melissa Barthelemy was 4 ft 10.
- Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 4 ft 11.
The tallest victim was Megan Waterman, who stood at 5 ft 5.
As you can see, LISK and Bittrolff have a preference for petite women. Furthermore, they both strangled their victims.
Like LISK, he seemingly wanted attention.
Bittrolff posed his victims by leaving them nude or partially clothed, with one arm above their heads. This behavior suggests that he was willing to play games with the authorities and seek out attention.
When an organized offender poses a victim’s body, it is typically because they want to create a memorable “scene” for others to stumble across.
In our profile of the Long Island serial killer, we outlined the possibility that he purposely left some of his earlier victims’ torsos in places where he knew someone would find them.
The motivations behind these actions are very similar.
To make a long story short, it means that both John Bittrolff and LISK displayed signs that they wanted some sort of notoriety for their crimes.
In both cases, it seems as though they were trying to let the community know that a killer was on the prowl.
To achieve this, “they” purposely posed their victims’ bodies in ways that would shock the finder, attract attention, and possibly even grab news headlines.
If you have studied serial killers before, then you will know that this type of behavior is nothing new or shocking.
Many serial killers are narcissists who crave attention.
According to forensic psychologist Richard Walter, sadists in particular like to play cat-and-mouse games with the police and terrorize the community at large.
For example, when the BTK killer, Dennis Rader, murdered Nancy Jo Fox in 1977, he was so eager for the authorities to discover her body that he called 911 the next day and anonymously reported the crime.
In 2000, Michigan serial killer John Eric Armstrong called the police and claimed that he had discovered the body of a woman in a river. Later, it emerged that the woman in question was actually one of his victims.
A sadistic Missouri-based killer named Maury Travis anonymously contacted a reporter at a local newspaper and told them where he had dumped one of his victims’ bodies.
During the 1990s, George Russell purposely “posed” one of his victims behind a McDonald’s restaurant in Bellevue, Washington.
The Hillside Stranglers taunted the police by dumping their victims in areas where they knew they would be found.
If you look through enough cases, you’ll find dozens of examples of killers engaging in this kind of behavior.
Interestingly enough, the police only discovered John Bittrolff’s victim, Colleen McNamee, after an anonymous male caller pinpointed her location.
According to newspaper archives, the man who made that phone call was never identified.
Serial killers are usually proud of their “work”. So much in fact that they will sometimes initiate conversations about them.
A couple of months ago, we came across a Facebook conversation with one of John’s former neighbors. In one of the comments, the neighbor claimed that John told him about one of the Manorville murders on the first day that they met.
The Manorville murders.
In November of 2000, three men discovered the torso of Valerie Mack beside an access road in Manorville. The trail in question is popular among hunters.
Three years later, a woman was walking her dog along another access road 0.5 miles away when she came across the torso of Jessica Taylor.
It was lying out in the open. Her killer had seemingly made no effort to conceal her remains.
Both Valerie and Jessica were found in the same area, within 5 miles of John Bittrolff’s home on Silas Manor Road.
Furthermore, we know that Bittrolff was an avid hunter and dirt bike rider who frequented Manorville long before he moved there. According to one source, he knew the trails where Mack was found like the back of his hand.
Notably, Mack was found beside a trail that is typically used by locals who are familiar with the area. It is not the type of place that a visitor randomly stumbles across.
In an interview with People.com, the mother of LISK victim Melissa Barthelemy stated that her daughter made “a lot” of phone calls to the Manorville area before her disappearance.
If this was the killer, it is likely that he was using a disposable burner phone.
John Bittrolff immediately realized that he was under surveillance.
In the lead-up to his arrest, John Bittrolff was put under surveillance. At the time, the police were hoping that he would discard an item with his DNA on it.
However, he never did.
The undercover officers who followed John in a plumber’s van said that he immediately realized that he was being followed.
While he was working, he would sometimes stand on the roof and try to spot them.
On one occasion, he carried out a defensive driving maneuver in an attempt to shake them off.
One has to wonder why he was so observant.
Was he really on edge about the murders that he had committed twenty years prior? Or was he worrying about something that was much more current than that?
“But the M.O. isn’t the same?”
The idea that a killer’s M.O. will never change is a myth that has been popularized by movies and TV shows.
In reality, a serial killer’s M.O. can change if he believes that there is a “better way” to commit his crimes.
Essentially, they can learn from their mistakes and improve on their crimes.
From what we know, it seems as though Bittrolff may have a close call during the murder of Colleen McNamee. This is because a witness spotted her getting into a small blue car outside of the Blue Dawn Diner in Islandia.
If he was the driver of that vehicle, then it is likely that he spent the next couple of months worrying that investigators were eventually going to connect him to the crime.
At the time, he wouldn’t have known how much information the police had.
“Did the witness see a part of my license plate?” “Did they catch a glimpse of me?” “Do they know the make and model of my car?”
These are all questions that would have been going through his head at the time.
If Bittrolff did decide to kill again, he may have reasoned that he needed to start concealing his victims’ identities.
The logic behind this is simple: If the victim’s identity is unknown, then there are no witnesses. A “Jane Doe” cannot be seen talking to someone or getting into a vehicle. The police cannot trace her final steps or canvas the area for information.
Furthermore, when a sex worker goes missing, the authorities will often presume that they have run away or moved to another city. This is especially true if the victim has a drug habit.
Interestingly, Bittrolff’s known killings stopped following the murder of McNamee.
Then, two years later, LISK started.
LISK’s first known victim was an unidentified woman named Fire Island Jane Doe. Her legs washed up on a beach on Fire Island in April of 1996.
At the time, Bittrolff’s wife was roughly two months away from giving birth to their first son.
This is interesting for two reasons.
The first reason is that it would explain the sudden change in M.O.
The fact that he was about to become a father might have convinced him that he needed to put far more effort into covering his tracks.
He now had a wife and an unborn child who depended on him. In his mind, he could no longer take the same risks as before. He needed to be more thorough.
The second reason is that serial killers often start or restart following a “stressor.” As the name suggests, this can be anything that causes stress or turmoil in their lives.
This is particularly true in LISK’s case, as the FBI believes that the killer is prone to acting out his violent fantasies during stressful periods.
Examples of stressors include being fired, the breakdown of a relationship, financial problems, the death of a loved one, health issues, and other life-altering changes.
Depending on the circumstances, the stressor can also be a pregnancy or the birth of a child.
If John Bittrolff is indeed the Long Island serial killer, then this big change in his life might explain why he suddenly felt the need to start again after a two-year hiatus.
Interestingly, some of the other murders also occurred during periods when John might have been experiencing stress:
- When he murdered Tangredi and McNamee, he was just weeks away from facing an assault charge for an incident that occurred in 1990. He was also in the process of purchasing a timeshare condo with his girlfriend in Florida (the sale went through in January 1994).
- His wife was heavily pregnant with their first child when Fire Island Jane Doe washed ashore.
- The couple were in the process of buying a plot of land in Manorville when Peaches’ torso was dumped in Hempstead Lake State Park. Notably, John’s name did not appear on the deeds for the property until 2003. Sources have indicated that he was facing financial issues during the mid-1990s that may have prevented him from getting approved for a mortgage. His criminal record may have also been a factor.
- The first of the Gilgo Four went missing a few months after he was served with a lawsuit for a workplace accident.
Bittrolff was charged with grand larceny in 1987. There are also reports that he frequently stole from his neighbors in Mastic Beach.
Following his arrest, a former neighbor from Manorville claimed that the carpenter liked to raid construction sites for tools and materials.
The Gilgo Four victims were all found wrapped in burlap (it is a misconception that they were found in burlap sacks, as former Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer specifically stated that they were “wrapped”).
Sheets of burlap are often used in construction to cure concrete during the warmer months, as they help to reflect the sun and retain moisture.
Therefore, it is plausible that Bittrolff came across rolls of burlap while he was looting a construction site.
Notably, the first of the Gilgo Four, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, went missing in July, which is the hottest month of the year in New York.
One source told us that Bittrolff’s drinking became noticeably worse in the lead-up to his arrest in 2014.
This statement is backed up by two other sources.
One year before John was arrested, a person close to him made an offhand remark about his drinking habits on social media. The comment, which was decidedly scornful, alluded to him having a problem with alcohol.
Then, following his conviction, one of the detectives who kept him under surveillance told The Daily Beast, “He had tons of beer bottles. I don’t know what he did with them.”
If Bittrolff is the Long Island serial killer, then the find at Gilgo Beach (2010–2011) may have tipped him over the edge.
Firstly, the authorities had found all of the identifying remains that he had dumped along Ocean Parkway. There was now a chance that they could track their last known movements and tie them to him.
Secondly, the case was receiving so much national attention that he would have felt compelled to remain dormant.
In other words, he was now feeling a great deal of stress at a time when he could no longer “relieve” that stress through his usual means.
Consequently, he may have turned to alcohol instead.
Bittrolff was familiar with Gilgo Beach.
Bittrolff is familiar with Gilgo Beach, as he is a carpenter who has worked on a number of properties in the area.
He is also no stranger to Point Lookout, which lies to the west of Jones Beach Island.
According to locals, the most popular way to get to Point Lookout from Mastic Beach or Manorville is via Ocean Parkway on the South Shore.
This means that Bittolff knew the exact stretch of road where LISK dumped his victims.
In addition to this, he was also familiar with Fire Island, which was where Fire Island Jane Doe’s legs washed ashore in 1996. It is also the place where Maureen Brainard-Barnes’ phone reportedly pinged a cell tower.
The police know more than the public do.
It is important to point out that the police probably have information about Bittrolff that is not public knowledge.
Because the Long Island case is still unsolved, it is likely that they are keeping their cards close to their chest.
During an investigation, the authorities tend to keep a lot of specific details private. They do this in order to weed out false witness accounts and tips from people who like to insert themselves into high-profile cases.
Unfortunately, there is a small minority of people out there who will lie for the sake of attention.
The Mayor of Manorville.
Three years before Bittrolff’s arrest, the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit opined that the Long Island serial killer was a socially-adept family man in his 40s.
In their profile, they stated that he was a pillar of his community and that people would be shocked when they found out that he was a killer.
Notably, Bittrolff was married with two kids. When the FBI delivered their profile in 2010, he was 44 years old.
Following his arrest, one neighbor remarked:
“He’s like the mayor of this town. He knows everybody. He helps everybody out.”
Another man said:
“It’s just unbelievable. Nobody can believe it.”
Is John Bittrolff LISK?
Simply put, we do not know. That is something that the American justice system will need to decide.
However, Bittrolff is similar to LISK in many ways.
- He targeted petite sex workers.
- He seemingly wanted some form of attention for his crimes.
- It is difficult to overlook the fact that two of LISK’s victims were found in his own backyard.
- He had an intimate knowledge of the trails around Manorville, including the trail where Valerie Mack was found.
- One of his neighbors claimed that he initiated a conversation about one of the Manorville murders on the first day that they met.
- It is easy to see why he might have deliberately changed his M.O.
- Bittrolff’s crimes suddenly stopped in 1994. LISK’s crimes started two years later.
- As a youngster, he was nicknamed “Crazy Johnny B”. According to former neighbors, he stole things, broke into houses, killed animals, bullied local kids by making them eat fireworks, and started fist fights for no reason. One report states that he wrestled a pig to the ground and slit its throat. Another neighbor claimed that he killed his family cat. On one occasion, he reportedly cut out the heart of a deer that he shot and ate it raw.
- During his murder trial, it was revealed that McNamee’s right hand had possible cigarette burns, which indicates that she might have been tortured. This detail is significant because the authorities believe that LISK is a sadist who derives pleasure from such actions.
- He fits the parts of the FBI profile that have been made public.
- One of the victims reportedly made a series of phone calls to Manorville in the lead-up to her disappearance.
- He started drinking heavily in the years leading up to his arrest. Notably, this would have been after the bodies were discovered at Gilgo Beach.
- He worked in the Gilgo Beach area on a number of occasions. He was also familiar with Fire Island and Point Lookout.
As you can see, he is a pretty solid suspect.
Would we be shocked if the authorities arrested someone else for the crime? Not at all.
However, we would be shocked if that person was drastically different than John Bittrolff.