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Joel Rifkin ; The Long Island Killer (Documentary)

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Published on Jun 18, 2013

Joel David Rifkin (born January 20, 1959) is an American serial killer convicted of the murder of nine women (although it is believed he killed as many as 17), mostly drug addicted prostitutes, between 1989 and 1993 in New York City. Also, he is suspected by some to be responsible for some of the Long Island Prostitute Murders whose remains were found in March and April 2011, as four of his victims' bodies were never found. In an April 2011 prison interview with Newsday, Rifkin denied having anything to do with recently discovered remains. Experts and victims' rights advocates, however, believe that Rifkin's recent statements have no value. Although Rifkin often hired prostitutes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, he lived in East Meadow, a suburban town on Long Island.

Murders
Rifkin committed his first murder in 1989, killing a woman and then dismembering her body and tossing it into the East River. Over the next four years, it is presumed he killed 16 more women. Sometimes he would take his victims back to East Meadow, to the house where he lived with his sister and elderly mother. Other times he killed them in his car.[citation needed] Rifkin has also been implicated in the murder of a woman whose severed head was discovered on a Hopewell, New Jersey, golf course on March 5, 1989. In 2013, investigators determined this victim, a prostitute named Heidi Balch, was the same woman that he described as his first victim.

Police finally caught up to Rifkin on June 28, 1993, when state troopers spotted him driving his pickup truck without license plates on the Southern State Parkway. A high-speed chase ended in Mineola when he crashed into a utility pole directly in front of the courthouse where he eventually stood trial. Troopers detected a foul odor from the back of the truck. It came from the corpse of prostitute and dancer Tiffany Bresciani, 22, the girlfriend of Dave Rubinstein (a.k.a. Dave Insurgent, a member of the 1980s punk band Reagan Youth), Rifkin's final victim. Rifkin had picked Bresciani up in his Mazda pick-up truck on June 24, 1993, where she was working on Allen Street.

During his trial, Rifkin was represented by Mineola-based attorney John Lawrence. Rifkin was found guilty of nine counts of second degree murder in 1994 and sentenced to 203 years to life in prison. His first possible parole date is February 26, 2197.

Prison life
In early 1994, it was reported that Rifkin had engaged in a jailhouse scuffle with mass murderer Colin Ferguson. The brawl began when Ferguson asked Rifkin to be quiet while Ferguson was using the telephone. The New York Daily News reported the fight escalated after Ferguson told Rifkin, "I wiped out six devils and you only killed women," to which Rifkin responded, "Yeah, but I had more victims." Ferguson then punched Rifkin in the mouth.

Prison officials decided in 1996 that Rifkin was so notorious that his presence in the general prison population could be disruptive. He was confined to his cell at the Attica Correctional Facility for 23 hours a day. He spent more than four years in solitary confinement before being transferred to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Clinton County. In 2000, a state appellate court determined that prison officials had not violated Rifkin's constitutional rights by housing him in isolation. Rifkin's lawsuit sought $50,000 for each of his 1,540 days in solitary confinement (totaling $77 million). Had he received any money, it would have been subject to state laws that earmark most of the award for the families of his victims. Corrections officials say that Rifkin is now imprisoned with more than 200 other inmates at Clinton who are not allowed into the general prison population.

In 2010, Rifkin was interviewed by ABC's Martin Bashir as part of the Nightline mini-series, Secrets of Your Mind. During the course of the episode, Rifkin underwent a brain scan to see if abnormal brain chemistry could have possibly made him more likely to commit murder.

In popular culture
Rifkin's name was a key plot point in the Seinfeld television episode entitled The Masseuse, in which Elaine Benes is dating a man named Joel Rifkin and she hopes that he will change his name because she's embarrassed to be dating a man who shares his name with a serial killer. Rifkin was also mentioned in the Criminal Minds episode "Charm and Harm" as an example of a criminal who used the ruse of being an amateur photographer. In James Patterson's book Tick Tock, two murders are committed that are similar to Rifkin's first two murders.

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