To his neighbors, suspect was a 'good guy' who liked to hunt and 'knew everybody'

John Bittrolff, 48, of Manorville, was arrested on John Bittrolff, 48, of Manorville, was arrested on Monday, July 21, 2014, and faces charges of second-degree murder in connection with the beating and strangulation deaths of two women more than 20 years ago, police said. Photo Credit: SCPD

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Neighbors know John Bittrolff as a friendly, regular guy, a devoted father of two boys who likes to hunt deer and raise animals in his yard.

A carpenter and home improvement contractor, he won friends by plowing their snow and doing odd jobs around their houses. "He's a nice guy. He's liked throughout the community," said Roger Schwarting, who has lived next door to Bittrolff for more than a decade. "He's helped everybody. That's why it's so shocking."

Another neighbor, Stephanie, who did not want her last name used, said she literally fell to her knees and started praying Tuesday morning when she heard Bittrolff had been arrested on double murder charges dating back two decades.

"I love the family. I hope our Lord and savior pours out his love, grace, kindness and mercy to everyone involved. It just is so sad for everybody," she said.

A third Manorville neighbor, who did not want his name used, said, "If somebody said to me 'That guy's a murderer,' I wouldn't have thought it in a million years. It doesn't seem to be in his nature or character."

Bittrolff, 48, was a hard worker who went to jobs most days and built his own home, including a garage and a playhouse for his children, Schwarting said. The two men often would share a beer on Friday evenings on Schwarting's deck, he said.

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They bonded over the horses they both owned, with Bittrolff helping Schwarting clear trees to make room for his horses, Schwarting said.

"He was a happy-go-lucky guy. He was always smiling," Schwarting said. He added that Bittrolff did some work on his house, including installing bay windows.

Bittrolff liked to go deer hunting upstate, where he has a second home, neighbors said. Sometimes he offered them deer meat.

He also had a variety of animals in his backyard, including pigs and goats, neighbors said.

One said he had bought pygmy goats from Bittrolff. "He was always a good guy to us," he said. "He was a big animal lover."

Stephanie said she was worried about how the charges would affect Bittrolff's wife and children. "His wife is a wonderful person," she said. "His family is loved" in the community. "They would do anything for you."

She said she could not fathom that Bittrolff may have killed two female prostitutes. "I don't think it's true but I don't have all the facts," she said. "I don't think he did it, honestly. There's no way."

If Manorville had a mayor, Schwarting said Bittrolff was so well-known and popular he'd be a good candidate. "He knew everybody in every store, and had connections," he said.

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