He is considered the most vicious serial killer in New York State, strangling seventeen women with his bare hands. Never once did he hesitate or feel remorse for his actions in any way. All of Joel Rifkin's victims were prostitutes because they were easy targets and their disappearance would often go unnoticed. In a conscious attempt to refrain from killing, he changed the time of day in which he would prowl for his next victim, hoping the light of day would bring more spectators to avert his intentions. This attempt, however, was unsuccessful. After his arrest, Rifkin willingly and readily confessed to all seventeen murders. He claims that he does not know why he murdered these victims, but he wants to know why he committed such heinous acts. The court ordered a series of psychological tests and scans in order to determine whether or not a brain dysfunction played a role in his actions. .
At his home in East Meadow, New York, a case study began to determine if there were any past abuse or traumatic experiences that may have triggered the violence. Joel Rifkin was an infant when he was adopted in 1959. He was a very sweet and friendly boy who was interested in and curious about many things. He always seemed to have a smile for everyone. His family was one with plenty of love and support with no abuse of any kind. Severe dyslexia made it difficult for Rifkin to read and he was very uncoordinated, possibly being the root of his underdeveloped social skills. He had trouble fitting in with other kids in his neighborhood while being the target of pranks and physical attacks at school. Rifkin never retaliated, however, even when his parents refused to intervene, asserting that he defend himself. In 1989, after a brief battle with cancer, Rifkin's father committed suicide. Two years later, the killing spree began. Most of the killing seemed to have happened within a week of some type of personal anniversary or holiday; his first murder occurring on the second anniversary of his father's death.