Joel Rifkin was the most prolific serial killer in the history of New York. He is serving 203 years in a maximum security prison. He had been arrested after his 17th victim, a runaway and prostitute. He had killed her and put her in the trunk of his vehicle. He had trouble performing with the prostitute and strangled her to death. Having stored her in the garage for a few days, the body began decomposing and he knew he would have to dispose it. A police officer began to pursue his vehicle as he drove off to dispose it, and he eventually crashed his vehicle and was arrested.
The body was discovered in his trunk due to the odor. Rifkin described each of the 17 murders in detail off the top of his head by providing the investigators a list. Having obtained a search warrant, they investigated Rifkin’s residence and found numerous tokens from his victims such as jewelry, identification and medication.
The interviewer asked Joel if he was looking at his victims as he was killing them, and Joel responded that he sometimes was, sometimes was not, sometimes was staring into space, etc. The interviewer described Rifkin as a psychopath which enabled him to kill his victims without empathy. He asked Joel what the faces of his victims looked like as he killed them, and Joel, hesitating, described their faces as a “deer in headlights” look. When the interviewer asked him if he liked the look, Rifkin said that he did not necessarily like it or he would have looked more often.
Joel was adopted when he was young. He tried to impress his father but always fell short. He was dyslexic and skinny, and was a frequent target of bullies. Rifkin described himself as a loner who would collect and categorize rocks and fossils. However, in his solitude, he eventually began to develop sexual fantasies about women being abused and dominated, around the age of 10 or 11. He fantasized about women fighting over him, sometimes killing one another.
At around the age of 17 or 18, Rifkin struck out on his to find a prostitute in order to avoid being a virgin in college. He eventually became addicted to having sex with prostitutes, having sex with over 100 of them. He dropped out eventually and moved back in with his parents, and spent a great deal of his money on prostitutes. When asked how it made him feel to be with prostitutes, he said it made him feel less lonely and tense. The interviewer asked him if feeling in control was part of his reason for visiting the prostitutes, and Rifkin denied this, saying that he felt the prostitutes were in more control than he was.
While he had habitually fantasized about murdering prostitutes, he never imagined that he would eventually do it, although he fantasized about killing each one of them. Eventually, however, his murderous fantasies became reality. Rifkin took a woman back to his residence. The prostitute reportedly was uncooperative and was more interested in getting more drugs and sleeping than having sex with Rifkin. After spending around 10 hours with her, she decided she wanted to leave, and Rifkin murdered her by hitting her in the head with a souvenir artillery shell repeatedly and then strangling her to death with his bare hands.
When the interviewer asked him how he felt after he had killed her, he said he recalled taking a 6 hour nap after killing her and then poking her to see if she would wake up. He said he always slept well after his homicides, even his first. He dismembered her body and put her body parts in plastic bags. He scattered her remains throughout New York and New Jersey, in an attempt to ensure that the victim is not found. He returned to seeing prostitutes, vowing not to kill again, and feeling the urge to murder them each time.
Joel soon committed another murder. There was a prostitute whom he had hung out with a great deal. After agreeing to go to an ATM machine to withdraw money for the prostitute, he knocked her out with a blunt object. Interestingly enough, when asked why he hit her, Joel responded that he did so in order to incapacitate her, showing how instrumental the psychopathic mentality is. The notion that the interviewer was asking about underlying motivation totally escaped Rifkin.
Joel strangled her to death. When the interviewer asked him how it made him feel, Rifkin said he was not aware of liking it and he simply wanted it done. When he asked if he enjoyed feelings power and control, Rifkin said he was not aware of any feelings. He disposed of her body in barrels of cement. The interviewer noted that psychopaths typically “rock back” when asked how they felt about their crimes, because they do not feel anything about them, or perhaps simply do not know how they feel about it.
Joel eventually read a book on the Green River Killer, and says that it became a how-to book of serial killing. He found a prostitute at some point who had him drive her around and get drugs. She was resistant to having sex with him and she began to complain about having just gotten out of rehab and began crying. She said that her boyfriend was about to break up with her and she wanted to die. One of the researchersin the video said that he thinks Rifkin became frustrated and was happy to ‘oblige her.’
His rate of murder would quickly accelerate. The remains of most of his victims were found. When he was brought to trial, he pled not guilty by reason of insanity. The insanity defense was not taken seriously by the jury, and he was sentenced to prison. He eventually confessed his guilt to most of the murders.
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