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From Gilgo Beach to Atlantic City: A serial killer by the sea

Posted: 5:01 PM, Mar 17, 2015
Updated: 2015-03-17 18:41:57-04

ATLANTIC CITY (PIX11) -  When four, dead women were discovered fully clothed, yet barefoot, in a drainage ditch behind a West Atlantic City motel, it was jarring—to say the least.

That was on November 20, 2006, and there was another, disturbing notation detectives made about the crime scene -- all four victims were facing the same direction, east, towards the boardwalks and casinos of Atlantic City.

It seemed certain this was the work of a serial killer preying on drug-addled prostitutes.

One of the victims, 35-year-old Kim Raffo, had grown up in Canarsie, Brooklyn.

The murders remain unsolved, much like the serial killings of sex workers on Long Island—most of them discovered in late 2010 and early 2011 between Gilgo and Oak beaches in Suffolk County.

The remains of ten people, including a toddler, have been tied to the Long Island serial killer.

But investigators think seven other bodies and body parts, found in various parts of Nassau and Suffolk, could be linked to Gilgo Beach murderer, as well.  Publicly, they deny a link between the serial killings and a Manorville carpenter, John Bittrolff, who was arrested last year for two, cold-case murders of sex workers in the early 90’s.

DNA played a pivotal role in Bittrolff’s case, eventually tying him to a third murder.  PIX 11 was intrigued by an online comment posted by a young woman named Amanda Beinlich several years ago.  Turns out her mother, Rita Tangredi, was one of Bittrolff’s alleged victims in 1993.  Her best friend was Melissa Barthelemy, the first woman discovered in burlap on Gilgo Beach in December 2010.

PIX 11 Investigates is taking another look at the baffling cases, following the burial of Craigslist escort, Shannan Gilbert , last week.

When the 24-year-old Gilbert vanished in May 2010 after visiting a Craigslist client in the gated community of Oak Beach, her family prodded police to look for her.  A search by Suffolk County cops near Ocean Parkway, in December 2010 , initially revealed the remains of four other strangled sex workers, wrapped in burlap.

Like Gilbert, they had booked clients on Craigslist.  Gilbert’s remains were not discovered until a year later -- police said she had drowned in a marsh, not far from her last client’s home.

Her family attorney, John Ray,  said in court papers she died fleeing a serial killer or killers, crying in a 911 call, “They’re trying to kill me.”

“Shannan’s murder brought to light so much ugly,” Gilbert’s mother, Mari, told reporters after her daughter’s burial last week.  “So much hatred.”

Criminal profilers have had a field day trying to figure out the most likely characteristics of the elusive killer.   Many feel he’s a white man who was in his mid-20’s to mid-40’s, when he started luring, torturing, and murdering his victims.

When PIX 11 Investigates attended a December 2014 press conference held by Atlantic County prosecutor, James McClain, about a drug case -- we asked him if there was any reason to think there’s a connection between the Long Island serial killer and the mystery killer who left the four, dead sex workers in the ditch behind the Atlantic City motel.  “I’m not prepared to discuss that,” McClain responded.

We followed up by asking McClain if there have been any solid leads in the Atlantic City murders.

“There have been instances, over the years, where we have reached out to law enforcement authorities in the Midwest,” McClain told us, “and I think also in Canada and the Northwest.”

One prostitute who partied with three of  the Atlantic City victims, shortly before they were killed, said they were with a wealthy man who had plenty of money and drugs….and a bad attitude.

Psychics have talked about a ring of men who held parties on yachts with prostitutes.

The current Suffolk County Chief of Detectives, William Madigan, has been especially tight-lipped about the case in recent months, believing too much information got out in the past.

“This is still a very active investigation,” Chief Madigan told PIX 11 Investigates.

And PIX 11 remains intrigued by the Facebook connections—and friendships—between some of the victims.

It turns out Molly Jean Dilts, a 20-year old from Blairsville, Pennsylvania discovered dead in the Atlantic City ditch, was Facebook friends with Amber Lynn Costello of Long Island, a victim of the Gilgo Beach ripper.