Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee were both discovered beaten and strangled a little less than three months apart in 1993 and 1994. They were petite and thin.
Their nude bodies lay in wooded areas, hidden. Tangredi's sister longed for the day her sister's killer would be caught. McNamee's family offered a $1,000 reward.
Police suspected the women's deaths were linked. But clues led authorities nowhere for years -- until the arrest Monday of a carpenter charged with killing both women, who police said were prostitutes.
Tangredi, 31, of East Patchogue, was last seen hitchhiking on Montauk Highway in November 1993. She was found partially buried Nov. 2, 1993, in an abandoned East Patchogue housing development.
McNamee, 20, left her Holbrook home early Jan. 5, 1994, her mother said, heading to a drug rehabilitation center. Her body was found that Jan. 30 near Express Drive South, near the William Floyd Parkway in Shirley. She had been beaten.
"She was a pretty girl, and outgoing and a nice kid," Sal D'Aguanno, 69, who lived two houses down from the little white house where McNamee grew up, said Tuesday.
He had been at McNamee's crime scene as a photographer for Suffolk police.
McNamee delivered newspapers on her bicycle, neighbors recalled. She graduated from Sachem High School in 1991. She was arrested once on charges of loitering for the purposes of prostitution, records show.
An outpatient at South Shore Treatment Center in Islandia, she was last seen getting into a small blue car in front of the Blue Dawn Diner, which has since closed. The car drove east on Veterans Memorial Highway.
"On her last day, her life was in order, she was happy. She was dressed so beautifully," her mother, Charlotte, said in 1996.
Tangredi's address wasn't known at the time of her death. Her family Tuesday declined to say much after a court hearing in Suffolk County.
During the hearing, a woman who later said she was Tangredi's sister sobbed.
A Suffolk County district court judge held the suspect, John Bittrolff, 48 of Manorville, without bail.
"Thank you, Jesus," Tangredi's sister said to herself quietly in court.
In 1993, the body of a third woman -- Sandra Costilla -- turned up in the hamlet of North Sea, 18 days after Tangredi's body was found. Her death remains unsolved.
With Portia Crowe