Doctor: “He’s Playing A Game,” In Reference To New York Serial Killer Joel Rifkin: Know More Here

With Joel Rifkin, a serial killer, Peter Reiss hopes to learn the identities of his two unidentified victims.

In “Cold Case Files: The Rifkin Murders,” a new true-crime documentary that airs on Saturday, the producer and his team are investigating the cold cases. Viewers will see Reiss and Rifkin seated after years of correspondence by phone and letter.

“He still says he wants to be forthcoming and help,” Reiss told Fox News Digital. “When I find inconsistencies, or I feel that he’s frustrating me, I don’t unload on him and let him know. I don’t want to affect the relationship for the possibility of getting more information. So I don’t hold his feet to the fire, so to speak.”

“I just try to get whatever I can,” Reiss added.


The 64-year-old is thought to have murdered 17 women in New York throughout the 1990s. The former gardener was found guilty in 1994 of killing nine of the women, and he is now serving more than 200 years in prison.

Reiss first spoke with Rifkin in 1998. He was working on a science documentary at the time about how genetics might play a role in what motivates people to kill. Reiss kept in touch because she was intrigued by Rifkin’s ostensibly typical childhood.

Reiss then started reading about the development of investigative genetic genealogy during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and how it was proving crucial in finding unidentified victims decades later.

Reiss thought of the two unidentified ladies who endured Rifkin’s abuse.

“I wondered if this new technology could help put a name to these women,” he explained. “Their families still have no idea what happened to them over 30 years later. That’s what led me to reconnect with Rifkin, to try to get new information to help achieve that goal.”

Reiss would never refer to Rifkin as a buddy, but the murderer seemed anxious to make new friends.

“He would write me things like Christmas cards, birthday cards,” said Reiss. “I responded once or twice, but then let it go. So the relationship did fizzle a bit, and yet now and then, I would hear from him. I wouldn’t be super reciprocal because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the relationship. But now I have a goal.”

“He says that after many years he now sees his crimes in a new light and wants to do some good,” Reiss continued. “While I believe there is some truth to that, I think he wants to, more than anything, explore the cases once again and see if there could be any new information gained from it.”

The victims have been given the numbers “Number Six” and “Number Nine.” Reiss claims that Rifkin acknowledged killing “Number Six” in the early 1990s, but her body was never found. He mentioned that “Number Nine’s” body was discovered in 1992, not long after Rifkin had killed and disposed of her.

1993 saw the end of Rifkin’s anxiety after he was stopped for a missing licence plate. Tiffany Bresciani, 22, was found dead and disintegrating in the pickup truck’s bed by police. Investigators discovered a treasure trove of personal items belonging to his victims, including jewellery, lingerie, and driver’s licences, when they investigated his mother’s house.

Fred Klein, the prosecutor, referred to Rifkin as a “killing machine.” Rifkin said in 2011 that his victim count would have been far higher if he had not been discovered.

There is a chance that the two unidentified victims will be found today.

Heidi Balch, who was Rifkin’s first victim, was recognised by state police in 2013. In 1989, her dismembered head was discovered in New Jersey on a golf course. Rifkin revealed the location of where he dumped her head and legs after being apprehended. For for than two decades, Balch’s identity remained a secret.

Balch’s parents did not originally report her missing, according to State Police Det. Sgt. Stephen Urbanski, and the New York City sex worker used a variety of identities and Social Security numbers.

According to Rifkin’s statement to the police, he killed a prostitute he knew by the name of “Susie.” The investigation took place in New York, where authorities concentrated on a prostitute known by the aliases Susan Spencer and roughly 15 other names. Her fraudulent Social Security numbers were tracked to Florida and Ohio in certain cases.

Finally, they discovered that the woman had previously gone by the name of Heidi Balch, who had been reported missing in New York by her aunt in 2001. Even that finding was hampered by the knowledge that Balch had not been seen since 1995, which was six years after the bones were discovered on the golf course. Later, it was discovered that Balch’s aunt had been misled into believing she had seen Balch when, in fact, she had not seen her niece.

The significant breakthrough eventually occurred when Balch’s aunt recognised her niece in Susan Spencer’s booking photo. Balch’s mother and father, who reside in Maryland and Florida, respectively, underwent subsequent DNA testing to confirm the identity.

Although it is a “slow process,” Reiss said, he is optimistic that contemporary DNA technology will enable the identification of the two victims.

“For at least one of the victims, we don’t have DNA yet,” he explained. “If anyone watches the program and recognizes any of the clothing or jewellery, there is a number for viewers to call. So there is hope that this program will generate some new leads.”

“And as part of the investigation into trying to identify these two women, we learned of two other women who have never been found,” he shared. “We spoke to their families. So there is hope that the program could help generate some leads for them too. And speaking to those families was an incredible experience. It was honestly an honour to connect with these loved ones who have spent decades searching for answers.”

The time is running out, Reiss said. Rifkin occasionally stops all communication and then unexpectedly initiates contact on his terms. Rifkin states that occasionally he has memory issues. His story had contradictions as well. There is concern that Rifkin will die with the rest of his secrets.

“There were moments where I felt he was changing his mind or having second thoughts,” Reiss explained. “So there was a lot of anxiety about what would happen when police went to interview him. From the very beginning, he always said he wanted to help. We had many, many phone calls about that. He was very forthcoming with information, so I did believe he would be cooperative and help, but it just wasn’t a guarantee. It never was.”

“He’s the only one who has the answers we’re looking for,” Reiss continued. “There is still uncertainty about whether he’s being completely forthcoming or if he just has trouble remembering details, or if he’s even changing his story and keeping certain things close to his chest. It’s impossible to know. You have to remember in the back of your mind that maybe he’s playing a game. There is that possibility that he does have more information he’s just not sharing.”

“That’s why I’m still in touch with him and still trying to get more information from him,” Reiss added.

After the special has aired, Reiss urges anyone who might have any information to come forward and phone. They might also hold the key to providing for loved ones with closure who have been troubled for years by unresolved issues.

“There is a dedication from law enforcement to solve these cases, which audiences will see,” said Reiss. “There are helicopters involved, dive teams looking for bodies. And I do believe we will get answers.”

“Does Rifkin want to really help us or not? I’m still on the fence,” Reiss reflected. “I still don’t know the true answer. But with each day that passes, time is running out.”

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