Rifkin: 'I have nothing to do with' victims

Joel Rifkin during an ABC interview, which aired Joel Rifkin during an ABC interview, which aired on August 26, 2010. Photo Credit: ABC

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Long Island serial killer Joel Rifkin said Thursday none of the skeletal remains found recently in the expanding Gilgo Beach murder investigation were victims of his.

"I have nothing to do with those bodies," he said matter-of-factly during an interview at the maximum-security prison where he's locked up for life.

Rifkin confessed to killing 17 women from the late 1980s into the early '90s. Four of the bodies were never found.

But Rifkin told Newsday that the South Shore barrier island where the remains of as many as 10 possible victims have turned up since December was not one of his dumping grounds. It is not yet known how long the most recently found remains had been there.

Rifkin, 52, spoke for more than an hour at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., a remote village about 20 miles from the Canadian border.

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The former horticulturist wore a green prison jumpsuit. His graying hair was combed back in a ponytail. He wears bifocals and sports a goatee. He doesn't raise his voice when he speaks and, despite his crimes, he is unrestrained by handcuffs or chains when he meets guests at a visiting area.

Rifkin has been following the Gilgo Beach case through television news and has his own theory -- at least regarding the four women who worked as prostitutes whose remains were the first to turn up in the brush off Ocean Parkway in Suffolk County.

He thinks the culprit could be a local whose line of work would allow him to go unnoticed if he carries burlap bags, like the clam fishermen who frequented the same South Shore area where he went fishing with his dad during his childhood.

"My guess is it would be someone like a landscaper, contractor or a fisherman," said Rifkin, who is serving the 15th year of a 203-year sentence for his killing spree.

He also said he believes the killings of the four prostitutes found along Gilgo Beach in December could be unrelated to the other remains found in recent weeks in Suffolk and Nassau counties. The four women went missing between 2007 and 2010.

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Rifkin showed little emotion during the interview. But he paused when he said he now feels remorse for his trail of death and terror. The former East Meadow resident was convicted of nine of at least 17 murders of mostly drug-addicted prostitutes, some of whom he dismembered. He dumped their remains throughout Long Island, New York City and New Jersey.

Rifkin explained why he decided to target prostitutes.

He said he would have "no attachment" to the victims -- meaning they could not be traced to him. This, he said, explains why the Gilgo Beach victims were chosen. As prostitutes, they were easy to entice. "That's their job . . . to get into a stranger's car," he said.

Suffolk police did not respond specifically to questions about Rifkin, saying that "all avenues are being investigated."

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Experts said they did not see much investigative value in what Rifkin had to say.

While Rifkin could offer some insights into a psychopathic killer's mind, former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole said his musings are unreliable, if not entirely misleading.

Rifkin's observations about the killer's profession are "speculative," she said, because anyone could have access to burlap bags.

Plus, she added, every killer is different: "He has his experience as a serial killer, but he doesn't have the training and the expertise" to speak about a case.

One area where expert investigators think Rifkin is telling the truth is when he says that, after all these years, he still does not understand why he killed his victims.

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In what experts said is typical for serial killers like Rifkin, he implied that he is now a changed man, who probably would not have committed the murders if he had been taking Paxil -- an antidepressant used to treat social phobias that he is now prescribed.

"It's blame-it-on-anything with these guys," said Steven Egger, a criminology professor at the University of Houston at Clear Lake who has interviewed several serial murderers. "Serial killers kill because they like it and it's why they continue to do it, but they will continue to blame it on anything other than themselves."

Victims' advocates saw no value in anything Rifkin said.

"People like Joel Rifkin should be tossed away and never heard from again," said Barbara Connelly, director of the Long Island New York Parents of Murdered Victims Outreach, a support group that meets in Roslyn. "We need to remember the victims and know that they were people who were loved and we need to keep their voices out there."

With Andrew Strickler

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