John Bittrolff, 48, of Manorville, was arrested on Monday, July...

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. Credit: SCPD

A Manorville carpenter firmly and evenly denied killing two women more than 20 years earlier in a police interrogation video shown Tuesday to jurors in Riverhead.

John Bittrolff, 50, kept his composure throughout the July 2014 video, even when he called his wife to explain where he was.

“Hello, it’s me,” Bittrolff said on the video. There were brief pauses between sentences as his wife responded. “I got arrested. I’m not kidding you. I’m dead serious. Two murders. From 1993. Two prostitutes. They’re saying they found my semen in them.”

The video, recorded after his arrest, was played during Bittrolff’s trial on two counts of second-degree murder. He is accused of bludgeoning and strangling Rita Tangredi, 31, of East Patchogue, on Nov. 2, 1993, and Colleen McNamee, 20, of Holbrook, on Jan. 30, 1994.

Retired Det. John McLeer said Bittrolff was arrested after DNA recovered from his garbage was found to match semen recovered from both women’s bodies. He and Sgt. Charles Leser took him back to the Homicide Squad at police headquarters in Yaphank, where they questioned him on the video played for jurors and state Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro.

Leser told Bittrolff they were investigating the murders of two prostitutes.

“Really,” Bittrolff said. “Interesting.”

“Have you ever used the services of a prostitute?” Leser asked him.

“No, never,” Bittrolff replied. “I can get laid any time I want. I don’t want to bring disease home to my wife.”

Bittrolff married his wife in 1995, but he said he dated her exclusively for 10 years before then and was living with her in 1993.

The detectives showed Bittrolff photos of Tangredi and McNamee taken both while they were living and as they were found, posed naked with one or both arms above their heads and legs apart.

“I have no idea who she is,” Bittrolff said of Tangredi. “I don’t know her,” he said of McNamee.

Leser told Bittrolff police had recovered “wood chips” from both victims, with paint and trace evidence on them. The material was actually microscopic particles and had been destroyed by police years before. Leser suggested the “wood chips” were related to Bittrolff’s profession.

Leser also told Bittolff about the DNA.

“It surprises me, yes, because it’s not me,” Bittrolff responded. “I never met these girls in my life.”

Later, after Bittolff invoked his right not to answer any more questions about the crime, McLeer chatted with him while he filled out arrest paperwork. He documented Bittrolff’s tattoos, which included one on his arm with his wife’s name.

“You’re not in any gangs, are you?” McLeer asked, reading from the form he was completing.

Both men laughed.

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