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Joel David Rifkin (born January 20, 1959) is an Americanmarker serial killer convicted of the murder of nine women (although it is believed he killed as many as 17 ), mostly drug addicted prostitutes, between 1989 and 1993 in New York Citymarker. Although Rifkin often hired prostitutes in Brooklynmarker and Manhattanmarker, he lived in East Meadowmarker, a suburban town on Long Islandmarker. During his trial, Rifkin was represented by Mineolamarker-based attorney John Lawrence.

Early life

The son of unknown parents, he was adopted by Bernard and Jeanne Rifkin when he was three weeks old. The couple adopted another child, a daughter, three years later. In 1965, the family settled in East Meadowmarker, New Yorkmarker, where Rifkin would spend most of his remaining years. A shy, awkward child, he was a target for bullies. He had an I.Q. assessed at 128, but struggled academically in school due to severe dyslexia. After graduating from high school, Rifkin, who was particularly interested in horticulture and photojournalism, made several attempts at community college and attended the State University of New York at Brockportmarker, where he worked for a time as a photographer on the school's newspaper, The Stylus. He held down various odd jobs, spending much of the little money he made on prostitutes.

In February 1987, Rifkin's adoptive father committed suicide to end the pain of cancer, adding further to Rifkin’s depression. Around this time, he became increasingly obsessed with violence, murder, and prostitutes. Rifkin was arrested for soliciting a prostitute on August 22, 1987 in Hempstead, Long Islandmarker. He concealed this arrest from his family.

Rifkin committed his first murder in 1989, killing a prostitute, dismembering her body and tossing it into the East Rivermarker. Over the next four years, it is presumed he killed 16 more prostitutes. Sometimes he would take his victims back to East Meadow, to the house where he lived with his sister and elderly mother. Other times he killed them in his car.

Police finally caught up to Rifkin in June 1993, when state troopers spotted his pickup truck without license plates on the Southern State Parkway. A high-speed chase ended in Mineola, where he crashed into a utility pole which was located directly in front of the courthouse in which he would eventually stand trial. Troopers detected an odor from the back of the truck. It came from the corpse of Tiffany Bresciani, 22, the girlfriend of Dave Rubinstein (a.k.a. Dave Insurgent, a member of the 1980s punk band Reagan Youth), and his final victim.

Rifkin was found guilty of nine murders in 1994 and sentenced to 203 years to life. He would be eligible for parole only in 2197, at the age of 238.

Rifkin's prison life

In early 1994, it was reported that Rifkin had engaged in a jailhouse scuffle with mass murderer Colin Ferguson. Prison officials decided in 1996 that Rifkin was so notorious that his presence in the general prison population could be disruptive. He was confined to his cell at the Attica Correctional Facilitymarker for 23 hours a day. He spent more than four years in solitary confinement before being transferred to the Clinton Correctional Facilitymarker in Clinton Countymarker.

In 2000, a state appellate court determined that prison officials had not violated Rifkin's constitutional rights by housing him in isolation. Rifkin's lawsuit seeks $50,000 for each of his 1,540 days in solitary confinement (totaling $77 million). If he were to receive any money, it would be subject to state laws that earmark most of the award for the families of his victims. Corrections officials say that Rifkin is now imprisoned with more than 200 other inmates at Clinton who are not allowed into the general prison population.

Pop Culture References

In a Season 5 episode of Seinfeld, "The Masseuse" (air date: 11/18/93), Elaine dates a man named Joel Rifkin. Embarrassed by his name and not wanting people to think she is dating a notorious serial killer, Elaine tries to get him to change it; suggestions include, from Elaine: Dion, Ned, Ellis, and Remy; from Joel: Stuart, Todd, and Alex.


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