Manorville man accused in cold case killings set for trial this month

John Bittrolff

A Suffolk County judge has set a Jan. 17 trial date for the Manorville man accused of killing two women whose bodies were found in wooded areas in East Patchogue and Holbrook more than 20 years ago. 

John Bittrolff, 50, of Manorville was arrested July 21, 2014 and charged with two counts of second-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee. Police said at the time that DNA evidence obtained from Mr. Bittrolff’s brother connected him to the more than 20-year-old crimes.

On Nov. 2, 1993, Ms. Tangredi, 31, who had no known address at the time, was found in a wooded area off Esplanade Drive in East Patchogue. Ms. McNamee, 20, of Holbrook was found dead in the woods near Express Drive South, near William Floyd Parkway in Shirley on Jan. 30, 1994. Both women were found nude, beaten and strangled to death and DNA obtained at the time established that they were likely killed by the same suspect, police said.

Ms. McNamee was last seen Jan. 5, 1994, getting into a small blue car in front of the Blue Dawn Diner in Islandia, according to a 2003 Crimestoppers press release. She was an outpatient at South Shore Treatment Center in Islandia.

Ms. Tangredi was last seen hitchhiking Nov. 2, 1993, on Montauk Highway, east of County Road 101, in East Patchogue. The next morning, a youth riding an all-terrain vehicle found her partially buried body in a wooded area near an abandoned housing development in the village, according to a 1996 Crimestoppers press release. Ms. Tangredi had been arrested earlier that year on prostitution charges, and police said they believe her death was related to prostitution.

Both women had frequented the East Patchogue area and been arrested for prostitution, police said at the time of their deaths.

Detectives told Newsday in 1994 that a third murder victim, Sandra Costilla of Queens, whose body was found in a wooded area in North Sea 18 days after Ms. Tangredi’s, may have also been connected to the same killer. Two years later, detectives told Newsday they did not have conclusive evidence to tie her death to the other two murders. No arrest was ever made in the Costilla case.

Mr. Bittrolff purchased his home on Silas Carter Road in Manorville in 2003. His previous addresses include Shirley, Center Moriches and Mastic Beach, according to county property records.

He will return to court next week to resolve some issues raised by defense attorney William Keahon, including a request that sections of a videotape interview made by police of Mr. Bittrolff be redacted to eliminate sections referring to a third murder, since Mr. Bittrolff has not been charged in connection with a third killing.

At a hearing Wednesday, Mr. Keahon also said he was provided with 7,000 to 8,000 pages of documents on the case by the District Attorney’s office and three pages make reference to a statement by the husband of victim Rita Tangredi admitting to her murder. Mr. Keahon said there is no name of the detective who reported this in the files and he asked that the DA’s office locate that name.

Mr. Keahon also said the documents refer to a 1994 incident in which a Suffolk County cadet in the police academy was caught with prostitutes and made a statement that “if I had my gun with me, I might not have my job,” indicating that something might have happened to the prostitute. Mr. Keahon asked for more information on that incident.

“It’s my understanding that two other police officers were suspects in these murders,” Mr. Keahon added, asking that the DA’s office provide him with material on those cases as well.

“At this point we have complied with all of our obligations to turn over [information] as required by state law, and will continue to do so,” said Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla.

Mr. Biancavilla had no comment outside court regarding the document suggesting Ms. Tangredi’s husband admitted to killing her.

Both Mr. Keahon and Mr. Biancavilla agreed that the trial should take about eight weeks, and should be wrapped up by late March.

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File photo: John Bittrolff mugshot. (Credit: Suffolk County Police Department)