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Joel Rifkin

Joel Rifkin

American serial killer
Joel Rifkin
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American serial killer
Is Murderer Serial killer Criminal
From United States of America
Type Crime
Gender male
Birth 20 January 1959, Nassau County, New York, USA
Age 62 years
Star sign Aquarius
State University of New York at Brockport
Farmingdale State College
Nassau Community College
East Meadow High School
The details (from wikipedia)


Joel David Rifkin (born January 20, 1959) is an American serial killer. In 1994, he was sentenced to 203 years in prison for the murders of nine women, mostly drug-addicted prostitutes, between 1989 and 1993. He is believed to have killed up to 17 victims between 1989 and 1993 in New York City and in Long Island, New York. Although Rifkin often hired prostitutes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, he lived in East Meadow, a suburban town on Long Island.He is also suspected to be responsible for some of the Gilgo Beach Killer murders whose remains were found in March and April 2011. In an April 2011 prison interview with Newsday, Rifkin denied having anything to do with then-recently discovered remains. Experts and victims' rights advocates, however, believe that Rifkin's recent statements have no value.

Early life

Rifkin's birth mother was a 20-year-old college student, and his biological father was a 24-year-old college student and army veteran. At three weeks old he was adopted by an upper-middle class Long Island couple, on February 14, 1959. His adoptive father Benjamin Rifkin, was of Russian Jewish descent, and his adoptive mother, Jeanne (Granelles), of Spanish descent, who converted to Judaism when she married.


Rifkin committed his first murder in 1989, killing a woman in his home in East Meadow, Nassau County, Long Island, New York. He then dismembered her body, removing her teeth and fingertips, putting her head in a paint can and then leaving the paint can in the woods of a southern New Jersey golf course and her legs farther north in New Jersey and then dumping her remaining torso and arms into the East River around New York City.

Over the next four years, it is presumed he killed 16 more women. After his final arrest in 1993, Rifkin was 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, New York 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 his final victim: prostitute and dancer Tiffany Bresciani, 22, the girlfriend of Dave Rubinstein(a.k.a. Dave Insurgent, a member of the 1980s punk rock band Reagan Youth), Rifkin had picked Bresciani up in his Mazda pick-up truck on June 24, 1993, where she was working on Allen Street in Manhattan, New York City.

During his trial, Rifkin was represented by Mineola, New York–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.

Rifkin sued, arguing that his solitary imprisonment was unconstitutional. 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..

Known Victims

Heidi "Susie" Balch, 25Remains found in 1989. Identified in March 2013. 
Julie BlackbirdRemains never found 
Barbara Jacobs, 31Remains found on July 14, 1991 in the Hudson River. 
Mary Ellen DeLuca, 22Remains found on October 1, 1991 in Cornwall, New York. Identified on July 4, 1993. 
Yun Lee, 31Remains found on September 23, 1991 in the East River off Randalls Island. 
"Number 6"Never identified, remains never recovered 
Lorraine Orvieto, 28Remains found on July 11, 1992 in Coney Island Creek. Identified on July 4, 1993. 
Mary Ann Holloman, 39Remains found on July 9, 1992 in Coney Island Creek. 
"Number 9"Identity remains anonymous 
Iris Sanchez, 25Remains found on June 29, 1993 near John F. Kennedy International Airport. 
Anna Lopez, 33Remains found on May 25, 1992 in Patterson, New York. 
Violet O'Neill, 21Remains found in July 1992 in the Harlem River at 123rd Street, the East River at 23rd Street, and near Governors Island. Identified in September 1993. 
Mary Catherine Williams, 31Remains found on December 21, 1992 in Yorktown, New York. Identified on July 6, 1993. 
Jenny Soto, 23Remains found on November 17, 1992 on the shores of Harlem River in the South Bronx. 
Leah Evans, 28Remains found on May 9, 1993 in Northampton, Suffolk County, New York. 
Lauren Marquez, 30Remains found on June 29, 1993 in the Long Island Central Pine Barrens in Suffolk County, New York. Identified on August 20, 1993. 
Tiffany Bresciani, 22Body found on June 28, 1993 in bed of Rifkin's pickup truck 

In popular culture

  • The 2018 independent film Joel was based on Rifkin's life and crimes.
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Masseuse," Elaine's boyfriend is named Joel Rifkin and references to the serial killer are made throughout the episode. At a New York Giants game they are attending, the crowd's reaction to her boyfriend's name when it is announced over the loudspeaker prompts her boyfriend to agree to Elaine's suggestion to change his name.
  • The Howard Stern Show producer Gary Dell'Abate briefly worked with Rifkin at a Record World location in New York.
  • Mentioned in list of serial killers in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode “Tortured”.
  • The song "Nasty by Nature" by the group The New York Ska Jazz-Ensemble was written about Joel Rifkin. The band's founder, Fred Reiter (aka Rocksteady Freddie) grew up next door to Joel Rifkin.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 23 Oct 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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