People of Brockport’s Past: Serial Killer Joel Rifkin

Joel Rifkin getting arrested for 9 counts of murder. phot credits:

By Jordan Soldaczewski

Look around the room you’re in. Now think about the fact that one of those people may one day become a serial killer.

This may not seem possible, but for Brockport student Robert Mladinich, this was reality. In 1993 he read the paper one day to find out that one of his former classmates from college was on trial for the murder of nine women.

Joel Rifkin was pulled over for a missing license plate on his car where police discovered a corpse in the trunk. Rifkin was arrested for murder and was later charged with various other counts of murder. He admitted to killing 17 people and to targeting female prostitutes. However, he was only tried for 9, since that is all the FBI were able to find. He will serve 203 years in the Clinton Correctional Facility in the North Country of NY.

Rifkin was born in 1959 and grew up on Long Island. He had a troubled childhood. He was an adopted child with diagnosed dyslexia, a low IQ, and an awkward nature. Rifkin was different from his peers, which led them to exclude him, especially when he tried to get involved in activities like the track team and the yearbook club.

In 1972 he was inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock film Frenzy, leading to his later obsession with strangling prostitutes. In this same year his parents gave him a car that he used to begin picking up prostitutes.

Rifkin attended Nassau Community College for one semester and then dropped out. He then took three years to pursue landscaping in various parts of the country.

Rifkin then started at SUNY Brockport in 1977 and pursued photojournalism. Classmate Robert Mladinich shared a story about working on an article for The Stylus with Rifkin as explained in Mlandinich’s book, From the Mouth of the Monster: The Joel Rifkin Story. Rifkin and Mladinich were covering a boxing match featuring up-and-coming boxer, Rocky Fratto. The two had a lot in common to talk about on the thirty minute ride to Rochester and when the match took a turn of events, they were able to share a moment which most journalists dream of. Fratto was named the winner of a fight he clearly lost causing the crowd to become furious and drunkenly throw items and punches Fratto’s way.

“Joel initially sought refuge under the ring, but quickly realized that from a journalistic standpoint, valor took precedence over safety. He was soon amid the fray, firing away with his camera like a front-line war correspondent while bullets whizzed past his head. We could not believe our good fortune. On our very first paid assignment ever, we would not just be reporting the news, we were actually becoming part of it,” Mladinich said.

At Brockport, students truly looked up to Rifkin for his photography skill. The photography club and most others believed he would go on to become a successful photographer, that is until he dropped out. Rifkin was battling severe depression leading to his low grades and sloppiness. He found it hard to commit to his relationship at the time and often went to Rochester to pick up hookers. This all lead to the demise of his relationship and his academic career. Rifkin has argued that if he had access to anti-depression medication, he may have become the successful photographer he was destined to be and not the murder he is.

Rifkin moved back to Long Island with his parents and pursued a career in retail with the company Record World. He enjoyed it at first, until he had difficulty with the accounting aspects of paperwork. Rifkin felt like he had fallen back into his childhood years when he struggled to do simple math and would often get frustrated by it.

In 1986, Rifkins’ father became terminally ill and begged his son to take classes at SUNY Farmingdale. Rifkin enrolled in Biology and at midterms his father fell into a coma. The day before he died Rifkin said into his unconscious ear, “Gee, Dad, I got a ninety, isn’t that great?”

After his father’s death, Rifkin went back into his ways, working landscaping side jobs to pay the expenses of prostitutes. Officially out of college, instead of studying a major, Rifkin studied past crimes to learn how to cover up murder. Since he lived at home, Rifkin would have to wait until his mom was out of town to turn his sick fantasies into reality.

Rifkins first murder wasn’t until 1989. His next murder was 18 months later. After that it became routine to Rifkin.

17 victims lives were allegedly taken by Joel Rifkin. Killing became routine to him and he says he is surprised he wasn’t caught sooner, especially when disposing of the bodies which he often dismembered and disguised in burlap bags or paint cans on the way to dumping it into a river or a secluded area.

When you think of the people who attended the same college as you, you’re inclined to think about the people who have been successful. There are many interesting people who went to Brockport including renowned actors, film producers, journalists, entrepreneurs, senators, and more. What you may not think of are the murderers who walked the same halls as you do now, let alone serial killers.



The SUNY system on Betsy DeVos

File:Betsy DeVos - Caricature (31382773543).jpg
Betsy DeVos was voted as President Trump’s education secretary after a 51-50. Vice President Pence was to tie-breaking vote. Photo:

By: Brian Elliott

It’s no secret that the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the 11th Secretary of Education, serving under the Trump administration, has been controversial. DeVos is a charter school advocate and a former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan. Her stance on pro-school-choice has been praised by other advocates of school-choice. However, many supporters of public education feel their voices are not being heard and they are being misrepresented with the appointment of DeVos. Many of those involved in the SUNY system are skeptical about DeVos’ ability to serve as Secretary of Education.

Devin Bonner, President of The College at Brockport Student Government, was raised in a household of teachers. Being a product of public education herself, she believes there is something wrong with DeVos’ view on public education.

“If you are serving the public in education and primarily in public funded education, you should be a product of public education,” Bonner said. “Or if not a product [of public education], a supporter in the interests of people who have public education.”

Bonner, like many others, shares the concern that DeVos will not properly represent and advocate for public education. Bonner explains that nothing will get done through complaining, and if we want change, then we need to take action any chance we can get.

Call your representatives and just by making those calls, it helps that much more,” Bonner said. “So continue to make those calls and we [BSG] can be a conduit for information, so if a student doesn’t know who their representative is, come into our office and we can help.”

Calling representatives is essential to the process but the problem that many people are coming across is they feel they don’t have a voice. It’s important to remember that the SUNY system has leadership that is fighting for our benefit.

Marc Cohen, President of the State University of New York Student Assembly, would like to meet and work with Secretary DeVos before making any professional opinions about her.

“She does not seem connected to the students of public education,” Cohen said. “But I will not engage in criticism until I have the opportunity to work with the secretary to ensure that student’s voices are heard.”

Being president of SUNY Student Assembly, Cohen acts as the voice for 64 SUNY campuses across the state. He wants to ensure SUNY that he will continue to make the student’s voices heard as he meets with the secretary in the future.

Having a representative in SUNY that advocates for public education isn’t all that needs to be done. Devon Smith, a resident director and graduate student in higher education at Brockport, wants to remind educators that they cannot bend to changes that will not benefit or further public education.

“Higher Education professionals need to be diligent when it comes to changes that may be coming down the line so that we can better support our students if something that greatly hinders their ability to receive a college education is passed through Congress,” Smith said. “We are professionals who are here for the students, and no matter what, we will support them.”

DeVos being confirmed as the Secretary of Education is not the end of public education as long as we stay informed and stay aware. Students, educators, and supporters alike must do their part to make their voices heard and to preserve the well-being of public education for all.

Letter from the Editor, Nick Newcomb

Marsha Ducey’s CMC 321 Advanced Writing and Reporting class takes on mock-newsroom project called the Brockport Beat. 

Welcome to the Brockport Beat.

Jobs, internships and shadowing are hard to weave into the normal curriculum and daily lives of some students. Other part-time jobs, family issues, lack of transportation and the normal rigors of higher education create a situation in which students are unable to receive real-world training and experience in their respective fields; in our case, journalism.

Enter Professor Marsha Ducey.  

Ducey devised a way in which she could utilize her class time for CMC 321 (Advanced Reporting and Writing) to more effectively serve students and provide as much real-world experience as possible by creating the class and its students into a mock-newsroom complete with an editor-in-chief, editorial board, promotions team and writers.

Ducey has entrusted me to use my experience as a former editor on The Stylus, the college’s student-newspaper, and current sports outfielder at the Democrat and Chronicle, a Rochester-area newspaper, to help lead my fellow classmates to create this online news publication for students, staff and alumni.

I won’t be alone in this endeavor; second in command is John Nixon, who is the current promotions director at Talon Television and wants to start his own news multimedia platform one day.  

We will introduce the rest of our team members throughout the semester as they publish and share their work.

What makes us different from any other on-campus media organizations like The Stylus, The Point and Talon Television?

We intend to take a more multimedia approach to our stories to better serve our readers across multiple platforms and utilize the feedback we receive from our fellow students, faculty and alumni to help better cover the issues that most concern you.

Our first round of stories will be live on Tuesday, Feb. 14, also known to most as Valentine’s Day.

We hope you’ll support us in our efforts to better the quality of our journalistic talents throughout the process.

Happy reading!

Nicholas Newcomb