Criminal Justice

Brother's DNA points police to man charged in 1990s Long Island slayings

A relative’s DNA pointed police to a man arrested Monday and being held without bail in two Long Island, New York, murder cases from the 1990s.

John Bittrolff, 48, a construction worker from Manorville who is married with two children, is charged with second-degree murder in the slayings of two women, authorities said. The bodies of Colleen McNamee, 20, and Rita Tangredi, 31, were found, similarly posed, in wooded areas of East Patchogue and Shirley in late 1993 and early 1994. Both suffered head injuries from being beaten and were strangled, and their killer allegedly kept what prosecutors described as a unique piece of clothing, according to the Associated Press, NBC News, Newsday (sub. req.) and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Attorney Harry Tillis represents Bittrolff and disputed the charges against his client. It isn’t clear whether Bittrolff entered a plea at his district court arraignment Tuesday in Central Islip.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said there is nothing connecting Bittrolff to the so-called Gilgo Beach murders that have more recently made headlines, involving 10 bodies found not far from a beach highway.

“There’s no evidence or investigatory link between these murders,” Spota told the AP, referring to the two sets of slayings. “The manner in which these bodies were found is very unique and very different from the Gilgo crime scene.”

Bittrolff was charged after his brother, Timothy, was convicted of criminal contempt in 2013 for violating a protective order. Under a 2012 law permitting authorities to obtain a DNA samples from those who have been criminally convicted, investigators got one from Timothy Bittrolff. It was a partial match to evidence take from the crime scenes, pointing authorities to a brother with the same parents, Spota said.

A second sample was taken Monday from a cup from which John Bittrolff drank after he was arrested, confirming his status in the case, Spota told news media. He said the case will be presented Thursday to a grand jury.

However, Tillis challenged the DNA evidence in court Tuesday, pointing to information provided to the judge by assistant district attorney Robert Biancavilla, who said a crime lab in Suffolk was able to “enhance” DNA samples from the McNamee and Tangredi scenes, according to Newsday. “Changed evidence does not make a strong case,” according to Newsday.

The DA has appealed for information from the public that could bolster the government’s case, such as the movements of the defendant and the two victims before they were killed.

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