Watch CBS News

DNA Helps ID Severed Head Found On NJ Golf Course In 1989

HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- DNA helped authorities identify a severed head found on a New Jersey golf course in 1989 as a New York City woman who may have died at the hands of a serial killer.

Authorities say 25-year-old Heidi Balch was HIV-positive and worked as a prostitute.

Authorities believe she was killed and dismembered by Joel Rifkin, who is serving more than 200 years in a New York prison for nine murders. He claimed he killed 17 prostitutes between 1991 and 1993 and his first victim went by a name that Balch used.

Authorities used the alias to track down relatives, which led to the DNA match.

"It's fitting the story exactly how Mr. Rifkin described it, with the head being disposed of here in Hopewell, the legs in Northern New Jersey and the torso in the East River," Lt. Bill Springer of the Hopewell Police Department said.

CBS 2's Mary Calvi spoke exclusively with Rifkin in January of 2011 about his serial killings and murder convictions.

"After the first, I thought I would never do it again. It was over a year and half until the second one," he said at the time.

Balch's murder would be followed by 16 more. Rifkin claims they were all prostitutes.

"Drug-addicted, disease-carrying vermin is the lie I told myself," Rifkin told Calvi in 2011.

As Calvi reported, Rifkin's victims, like Balch, were nearly invisible to society.

"They're easy because they travel a lot. They can disappear for months," he said two years ago. "You lie to yourself.  You deny that there's a family, you deny that there's parents and possibly kids."

Balch had been missing for years.

"She was young, she met a horrible death and as bad as everything is, maybe at this point at least we can provide some closure to the family," said Hopewell Police Chief George Meyer.

Meyer told The Times of Trenton that New York authorities have no interest in prosecuting the case because Rifkin is already behind bars.

Rifkin, a former landscaper, was stopped by police on a routine traffic stop when a Long Island officer noticed his front license plate was missing.

An odor in Rifkin's truck led to the discovery of a body. Rifkin admitted to the 17 slayings after his May 1994 murder conviction in Nassau County. He also pleaded guilty to two murders in neighboring Suffolk County.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.