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Documents show 2 cops probed in 23-year-old killings in Suffolk

John Bittrolff inside Suffolk Criminal Court Thursday morning

John Bittrolff inside Suffolk Criminal Court Thursday morning on July 31, 2014, where he was arraigned on an indictment charge in the killing of two women. Credit: James Carbone

Documents turned over last week by a Suffolk prosecutor show that among the many suspects in the killings of two women more than 20 years ago were a Suffolk police sergeant who is now a lieutenant and an officer who was later fired and charged with threatening to rape and mutilate women.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro directed Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla to provide the 180 pages to the defense attorney for John Bittrolff, 50. The Manorville carpenter is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Rita Tangredi, 31, of East Patchogue, on Nov. 2, 1993, and Colleen McNamee, 20, of Holbrook, on Jan. 30, 1994.

Earlier this month, defense attorney William Keahon said he had belatedly received evidence on 75 other men who had been investigated in the crimes. The papers Keahon got Friday showed that two of those men were former Officer Teddy Hart, 57, and Lt. Michael S. Murphy, who was then a sergeant.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla declined to comment on why Murphy was suspected and cleared, but added that Bittrolff’s DNA establishes him as the appropriate defendant.

Hart was fired in 2001 and pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment after an investigation showed he called women and threatened to rape and mutilate them.

A legal doctrine known as the Brady rule generally requires prosecutors to turn over any evidence favorable to defendants as soon as they have it. Keahon said police had most of this evidence for years before his client’s arrest.

Prosecutors say DNA from Bittrolff’s semen was recovered from both bodies, although Keahon has said DNA from several other men was found in and on both bodies.

Keahon said Monday that he believes Biancavilla has more evidence he should turn over under that rule.

For example, Keahon asked why the records he received include no indication about why Murphy was a suspect or how he was cleared.

“Why, when and how did he become a suspect?” Keahon said.

Biancavilla said no documents exist on that.

“I’ve turned over to him every document that exists regarding that aspect of the investigation, Biancavilla said. “That’s it.”

Keahon said if the police department has other records, Biancavilla is required by law to find and disclose them.

“His duty is to seek out Brady material, not just review what he has,” Keahon said.

“I’m aware of my Brady obligations,” Biancavilla replied.

Murphy was investigated by the Suffolk police department in 1998. As part of that, his police car was examined by forensic scientists for the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory. The examination showed wood shavings were found next to the car’s passenger seat, according to a lab report.

The bodies of both women, who worked as prostitutes, were found in wooded areas posed identically - arms above their heads, legs spread and wood chips on their bodies.


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