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Serial killer Joel Rifkin killed 17 women in the 1990s before the police tried to pull him over for a missing license plate (and discovered his latest victim).
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Police were unable to uncover the victim's identity, or who was responsible for the murder.
A year later, Rifkin claimed his second victim: prostitute Julie Blackbird. Again waiting until his mother was out of town, Rifkin drove Blackbird to his Long Island home. The next morning, Rifkin beat his victim‚Äîthis time with a table leg‚Äîbefore strangling her. He dismembered the corpse as before, but this time he placed the body parts in buckets weighted with concrete and tossed the remains into the East River and a Brooklyn canal.
Rifkin started his own landscaping business in 1991, and he began using the rented job site to stash corpses until he could properly dispose of them. Among his victims during this year were prostitutes Barbara Jacobs, Mary Ellen DeLuca, and Yun Lee. Rifkin would go on to strangle 17 women, most of whom were drug addicts or prostitutes. Police were rarely able to identify the victims, much less the perpetrator of the crimes.
But in June of 1993, Rifkin strangled hooker Tiffany Bresciani and drove her back to his mother's home, stopping at stores along the way for rope and tarp, while Bresciani's corpse lay in the backseat of his mother's car. By the time he got home, she was wrapped in tarp and concealed in the trunk.
Rifkin moved Bresciani into the garage, leaving her body in a wheelbarrow in the summer heat for three days. He was on his way to dump the corpse about 15 miles north of his home, when police troopers noted he was missing a rear license plate on his truck. When police attempted to pull Rifkin over, he began a high-speed chase instead. Panicked, he crashed his car into a utility pole in front of the local court house. As troopers came up to the car, they detected a strong odor from the back of the truck. It came from Bresciani's rotting corpse. Police took Rifkin into custody.
Homicide detectives began interrogating Rifkin on June 28, 1993. He described all 17 murders, writing out the names he remembered and even sketching maps to help police find those victims still missing. The next day, Rifkin appeared before a judge with the plea of not guilty. He was transferred to the Nassau County Correctional Facility in East Meadow to prepare to stand trial.
On May 9, 1994, Rifkin was sentenced to 25 years to life for murder, as well as reckless endangerment for leading police on a car chase. Rifkin was transferred to Suffolk County jail shortly after the trial, where Rifkin pleaded guilty to two more counts of murder. He received two more consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison. By January 1996, Rifkin was scheduled to serve at least 183 years for seven slayings, with 10 counts outstanding. That same year, after several conflicts with other inmates, prison officials decided that Rifkin's presence at the prison was disruptive. He was placed in solitary confinement at the Attica Correctional Facility for 23 hours a day over the course of four years.
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