What happens when a heroin-addicted prostitute dating a washed up and lobotomized punk rock star crosses paths with a violent, mentally disturbed serial killer? Total, utter chaos and heartbreaking tragedy, which would lead to her terrible death at just 22 years old.
Tiffany Bresciani was born on March. 10, 1971 in Metairie, Louisiana; a boring southern city where nothing really happens. She was an only child who dreamed of escape and fame, and her mother Cheryl said that she “wanted to live in the big cities… She was very happy and beautiful and loved people.” Tiffany’s grandmother nicknamed her “little lamb.”
She was a dreamy and idealistic Pisces girl of Italian-American descent with striking green eyes and reddish-brown hair; described as small, waif-like and pretty. Tiffany had a tattoo of a purple rose encircling her left wrist, and an Egyptian ankh set against a floral pattern on her left hip. She had an interest in alternative rock culture and pagan spirituality, and she dressed like a cool goth girl.
Tiffany’s goal was to become an actress, and she initially went to Hollywood. Deterred for whatever reason, she then headed to New York and set her sights on Broadway. However, life does not always go as planned. She ended up as a stripper instead; dancing at a sex emporium called The Big Top Lounge.
She dated Rick Wilder (the skeleton-looking founder of punk band The Mau-Mau’s) in a turbulent on-and-off relationship. This seemed to be the first stage of Tiffany’s downfall: becoming a stripper and rock’n’roll groupie.
Initially, however, things started out great. Tiffany reached the pinnacle of luxury by staying with Rick at his luxurious West 45th St Whitby co-op; occasionally inhabited by stars like Sinatra and the Barrymores. The place had an amazing view of the city, and made her feel glamorous and safe. Unfortunately, her life unraveled at a blinding pace.
Tiffany suffered from a debilitating heroin addiction which caused her to turn to prostitution. A neighbor at the Whitby said that “she was always stoned. I used to worry so much about her. Most of the time, she was on drugs.” Rick and Tiffany’s relationship disintegrated over her addiction and sex work, and soon she was selling herself on gritty Allen Street to fund her habit.
Love Will Tear Us Apart
Around this time, she met her new lover: Dave Insurgent, lead singer and co-founder of the hardcore punk band Reagan Youth. His birth name was David Rubinstein, and his parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland.
Surrounded by Nazi punks and skinheads, the Reagan Youth were one of the few anarcho-leftist bands in the punk scene at that time. Their band name was a satirical mashup of Ronald Reagan + the infamous Hitler youth of WWII.
They were the creators of such wonderful songs as Jesus Was A Communist and I Hate Hate, and regularly performed at the iconic CBGB nightclub.
Quite honestly, their music is patently mediocre and I recommend the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and the Misfits instead.
By the time Tiffany met Dave, he was extremely busted. Due to his erratic behavior, the Reagan Youth had disbanded in 1990. Dave was addicted to heroin and dealt drugs to make income, but he wasn’t very good at it and often pushed his luck. He used his own products instead of selling them, and when asked to repay his debts; he brashly informed seasoned thugs “you’ll get your money when I say you get it.” Wrong move.
During a smack deal gone wrong, Dave got his shit rocked for not paying up. A rival dealer beat Dave into a coma with a baseball bat, and he was taken to a hospital in emergency condition and lobotomized. Bandmate Paul “Cripple” Bakija described the horrific aftermath:
“The next day I visit Dave in the hospital and boy is it tough, he looks like hell. Dave’s eyelid was swollen so much it reached all the way down to his upper lip. His parents were there and I find out that he needed a lobotomy to save his life.
Eventually, he gets discharged from the hospital but Dave now has stitches going around his forehead from ear to ear. When Dave finally recovered, as best he could, I asked him what happened. Dave told me he couldn’t remember anything.“
Suffering from brain damage and post-surgical pain, Dave used marijuana to medicate himself. Sadly, the lobotomized ex-punk singer soon turned to heroin once again. He moved out of his parents’ home in Queens to an apartment on the Lower East Side. This is where he met Tiffany.
Dave once had a girlfriend named Susan Cordon, and she would cry and become extremely upset whenever he used heroin. Bakija said that she was the only thing preventing Dave from full fledged addiction. Once Susan dumped him, Dave became a junkie. She said that “after I left, he called one day freaked out that he had woken up in a crack house. Part of him knew what he was doing was scary and could have consequences.”
His friends now avoided him, and he couldn’t have looked too great with stitches running across his face from ear to ear. Dave was a shadow of his former self, and he would never perform again.
Despite all this, he somehow managed to hook up with beautiful Tiffany Bresciani. She was into alternative and edgy men, and dodgy Dave fit the bill. The clout from being in a known punk band, as well as their common heroin addiction must have created a strong toxic bond of love between the two. Without anyone to dissuade them from their drug use, the couple fell deeper into heroin abuse and degeneracy.
For some reason, Tiffany began to support Dave financially through prostitution; even though he was seven years her senior. Through her self sacrifice, Tiffany kept the couple afloat. Dave claimed to love her and even pronounced her his fiancée, yet he did not lift a finger to help the two out of the situation.
Instead, he often accompanied Tiffany while she went to solicit clients, and waited for her on the street. When she was finished, the two would go buy heroin together. If that sounds cucked, that’s because it was. Dave told his parents that Tiffany was a dancer. In a way, she was.
While she stripped at sleazy nightclubs, she caught the eye of a 34-year old unemployed landscaper named Joel Rifkin. He had seen her and been mesmerized by her performance, and was said to have been a regular customer.
On June 24, 1993, Tiffany would meet with Rifkin for the last time. Unknown to her and the other girls who worked the streets of New York; Rifkin was the worst serial killer in the city’s history. And now, it was Tiffany’s turn to die.
Who was Joel Rifkin and why did he murder women?
Joel Rifkin was a killer without a conscience. Born in 1959 and abandoned by his birth parents, he was adopted by a loving upper middle class family; so loving that detectives later on suspected that Joel’s mother Jeanne and sister Jan stayed silent despite knowing of his crimes.
While most serial killers have a fucked-up childhood filled with abuse and beatings, Rifkin’s family life was perfectly normal. What was problematic, however, was the bullying he faced in school. While in the gym showers, students threw eggs at him. Bullies dunked his head in toilets, and stole his clothes. Once some boys waited outside a library to beat him up, so he had to call his father to come rescue him. He was nicknamed “turtle” and “lardass” for his stooped posture and slow gait.
As for women, they though Rifkin was creepy and ugly and he was rejected by all of them. The only time he had a relationship with a woman was when he was in college studying horticulture; and a heavyset dark-haired classmate briefly dated then dumped him. She said he was “sweet, but always depressed.” In 1987, Rifkin’s father committed suicide after a fatal prostate cancer diagnosis. 7 months later, Rifkin was arrested for soliciting prostitution.
On the outside, people thought Rifkin was a normal guy. He seemed a bit shy and awkward, and was 34- years old yet still living with his mother and struggling to remain employed. But there was nothing on the outside to suggest alarm, and he was tested at a high IQ of 128.
On the inside, however, he was a violent monster. In 1989, Rifkin began a 4 year killing spree in which he murdered 17 prostitutes (or possibly even more); and dismembered and mutilated their bodies. He strangled them to death, then strew their limbs all across New York state. He dumped the corpses in forests, rivers, canals, fields, and abandoned properties.
Rifkin had no mercy for his victims, and killed sex workers because he believed their lives were worthless and that nobody cared for them. At his trial, he would realize that wasn’t the case. But any how, he was addicted to murdering women and he couldn’t stop.
After his apprehension, police found in his room books about Jeffrey Dahmer, Gary “Green River Killer” Ridgway, and Arthur Shawcross; sick serial killers who also murdered prostitutes. They also found a bondage manual on tying ropes and knots, and Women and Love by the feminist sexologist Shere Hite. Rifkin was obsessed with Hitchcock’s 1972 thriller Frenzy, and watched the strangulation scene hundreds of times. He developed a fetish for choking women.
Joel Rifkin was basically an incel who had snapped. While working at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, he was rejected by a pretty blonde intern he was crushing on. It was too much for him. He lost it, and took out his rage on helpless and vulnerable sex workers. And unfortunately, Tiffany would be his final victim.
Pickup on Allen Street
It was a warm summer night, and Tiffany Bresciani was back on the streets after briefly trying to get help at a methadone clinic. She wanted to stop using heroin, but it was impossible. Tiffany’s mother and grandmother still cared about her and often mailed her care packages. The most recent one contained pictures, summer dresses and a white teddy bear. They asked her to come back home, but by now heroin had taken over her life.
Tiffany and Dave were hanging around outside waiting for a potential client, when a blue 1986 Toyota sedan pulled up. Joel Rifkin was on the prowl- in his mother’s car. Tiffany might have recognized him from a previous meeting, and trusted Rifkin enough to get in the car with him.
Rifkin later noted that he could not stop staring at her flattering outfit; a sheer green blouse and a black skirt that highlighted her figure, and that he liked her wrist tattoo. He also claimed that her murder was not premeditated (she was his second prostitute that night, and he had not killed the first girl), and that he assumed she was high on either cocaine or methadone.
Rifkin negotiated an encounter with Tiffany for $40, but some sources give that number to be as low as $20. Tiffany bid farewell to Dave and told him she would only be 20 minutes. Instead, he would never see her again.
Tiffany got into the vehicle, and Rifkin drove her to the nearby Manhattan Bridge. As they prepared for sex, a passerby nearly peered into the car; causing Rifkin to suffer from erectile dysfunction. This was a common occurrence with him, and he had once murdered a prostitute after she cried over his inability to get it up.
During sex, Rifkin decided to murder Tiffany. He squeezed her throat with his hands until her eyes were wide with fear, just like scene he desired to emulate from Hitchcock’s Frenzy. After a minute of strangulation, Tiffany died at around 5:30 AM. She was only 22- years old, and her life had ended in the most sordid and tragic manner.
When quizzed on Tiffany’s killing afterwards, Rifkin coldly summed the situation up as “it was someone I met in the city, and things didn’t go well.”
A gruesome serial killer comes undone
Pleased with himself, Rifkin stared at Tiffany’s body and admired her beauty and her auburn hair. He thought to himself what a shame it was that she was dead when she had been so attractive. The psychopath then drove to a supply store to buy blue tarp and long cord, and wrapped up Tiffany’s naked body in a deserted parking lot.
By the time Rifkin arrived home, it was 9 AM and his mother wanted her sedan back to run errands. Amazingly, his mother never realized there was a dead body in the trunk. Had she opened it, she would’ve uncovered a shocking surprise. After she returned home in 30 minutes, Rifkin removed the corpse and left it on an orange wheelbarrow in his mother’s garage. He then went inside his home and slept.
Tiffany was his 17th victim, and Rifkin was no longer phased by killing. When asked how he could do something as repulsive as dismember a body, he said that the act of murder in itself was the true point of no return. He killed mechanically, and took pleasure in all the acts that preceded and ensued from it.
During his interview for the A&E documentary on his life, Rifkin jokes about Tiffany’s decaying body being “nice and ripe,” and chuckles at how his mother never noticed it. The man clearly has a sick sense of humor, as there was a bumper sticker on the back of his vehicle which read “Sticks and stones may break my bones but whips and chains excite me.”
Almost four days later, Rifkin realized that the corpse was decaying in the summer heat. For whatever reason, he had lagged in disposing of the remains. At around 3 AM on June 28, he placed the body in in his white 1984 Mazda pickup truck, and drove around looking for a place to discard it.
A pair of cops spotted his pickup on Long Island’s Southern State Parkway, and observed that it had no license plates. Unfortunately for Rifkin, the plates fell off during that fateful ride. Gripped with fear and the knowledge that he would finally be apprehended, Rifkin hit the gas pedal.
A 20 minute-long high-speed chase ensued, in which Rifkin drove up to 90 mph trying to get away from the cops pursuing him. Tiffany’s corpse rattled around in the back of the trunk as he drove, and at one point the vehicle nearly tipped over. In his mind, Rifkin was hoping he could drive into a body of water, and swim away from the whole situation.
After a dangerous pursuit, Rifkin finally crashed the vehicle into a streetlight. As the officer walked up to Rifkin, he observed him sitting in the driver’s seat with his hands up and a calm expression on his face. The horrified officer then smelled the strong odor of a decaying body. He inspected the back of the pickup, and shone a flashlight onto its contents.
There he observed Tiffany Bresciani’s badly decomposed corpse; so rotten that he could not even tell her ethnicity or gender. Since the corpse smelled atrocious, Rifkin had put Noxzema skin cream under his nose to avoid inhaling the stench. He had learned this trick from the film The Silence of the Lambs.
Rifkin’s sick charade had finally come to an end. Yet officers at the scene noticed that he was oddly relaxed. It was as if he had wanted to be caught. He asked an officer to turn up the AC in the police vehicle, thanking him and stating “there won’t be any AC where I’m going.” Police captain Walter Heesch instructed fellow officers as such:
“This guy’s too calm. Here’s this body, it smells so awful, and he’s riding around with it. And he’s not excited; he’s not upset. It’s not like this is his first murder, where there were drugs and sex and he got excited and killed her. There have to be others. Start asking him if there are others.”
After two hours of interrogation, Rifkin cracked and confessed to 17 murders. After several well-publicized trials, he was sentenced to 203 years of life in prison. During his sentencing, the judge said he deserved to be in jail in his next life as well.
And what of Tiffany, who was was loved and missed?
Tiffany’s mother Cheryl became worried once her daughter stopped phoning her. They usually spoke three times a week, and when the calls stopped coming Cheryl said that she “had the most awful feeling.” The last time she saw Tiffany was 9 months ago. She had returned home to Louisiana to visit.
When she discovered her daughter was dead, Cheryl was heartbroken. She testified at Rifkin’s trial on behalf of the pain she felt as a mother. About him, Cheryl says “I don’t hate him, I don’t hate anybody. I just can’t understand that. It’s still a shock to me… I still have that heartache, you know, it never goes away. There’s that empty feeling without her.”
And what of Dave “Insurgent” Rubinstein? What became of him when his beloved fiancé disappeared? Let us go back to the night of June 24, 1993, when Tiffany vanished in a blue sedan, right before his very eyes.
The 20 minutes had passed, and turned into hours- yet Tiffany was still nowhere to be seen. A panicked Dave combed the city, going to familiar haunts hoping to spot his girlfriend. He went to the strip club she danced at, and searched through every local emergency room. Dave even phoned up police to report the vehicle Rifkin that had picked her up in, but it was to no avail.
Finally, he was informed that his girlfriend’s decomposed corpse had been found in the pickup truck of an infamous serial killer. Dave was devastated by the loss. They had shared their addiction and suffering with one another, and she had supported him financially and emotionally. Additionally, he may even have felt some guilt about the whole situation.
They had had a Panic in Needle Park and Sid and Nancy type of intense relationship. As if what had happened wasn’t bad enough, Dave was dealt another blow that would send him over the edge. On June 30, 1993, just two days after Tiffany’s body was discovered, a one in a million freak accident took place at the Rubinstein home.
His father, Ronald, had somehow run over Dave’s mother, Giza, with his vehicle and killed her. The cause of death was internal bleeding. How does that even happen? How does one accidentally run over their own wife in their home garage? It just seems absurd.
Giza Rubinstein had survived the Łódź ghetto of Nazi-occupied Poland, and was in the Auschwitz concentration camp when it was liberated in 1945. All of her family members were killed except for her sister. Dave’s poor mother had survived the worst circumstances, only to be accidentally killed by her own husband years later. The irony and cruelty of life is mystifying.
Unable to cope with the immensity of these two tragedies, Dave decided to kill himself. On July 3, 1993, three days after his mother’s death, Dave committed suicide by overdosing on heroin. His father Ronald buried his own wife and only son in the same week. Ronald himself had survived Stalin’s gulags, yet this truly was the worst time of his life.
The depression and loneliness of losing his girlfriend and mother at the exact same time understandably crushed poor Dave and obliterated his will to live. However, Dave’s ex-bandmate Paul Bakija had more insightful information into the situation:
“The last time we spoke was the night he died. He came over to my house. It all happened fast. I think his mom died a few days after his girlfriend, who was a prostitute. This wasn’t his main girl. His main girl is still alive. The one who ended up dying was some girl he picked up on the street. She was tricking, and she paid for his drugs. He put her in a car, and that was the last time he ever saw her. I think he committed suicide a week later.”
Yikes. According to the way he tells it, it sounds like Dave was literally acting as Tiffany’s pimp, and cheating on her as well. Though technically, Tiffany was unfaithful too. It is shocking though that Dave told his friends that Tiffany wasn’t even his “main girl,” and there was some other more prominent woman in his life.
Did Dave kill himself out of guilt? Did he somehow feel that he was responsible? Tiffany had tried to get clean a few times before her death, and despite failing to do so; it indicates she had the will to make a better life for herself. She was only 22, and her life was cut short so abruptly.
Ultimately, the toxic relationship that Dave Rubinstein and Tiffany Bresciani had going on between them contributed to their destruction. Running into Joel Rifkin was a shocking stroke of bad luck, as their lives had already been filled with so much misfortune.
The saddest part is, Tiffany Bresciani’s life is now defined by Joel Rifkin and Dave Rubinstein- it as if she has lost her own identity between these two. Information on the girl herself is rare and scarce to come by. Rifkin said about his victims, “I killed prostitutes because they had no one. They had no lasting relationships. No family who cared. No one would ever come looking for them.” That is total bullshit, and he must be proven wrong.
Judging from the few photos and testimonies of her, Tiffany seemed like a sweet goth girl who was just lost in an awful addiction that ended up consuming her. She was an interesting, well-read, street smart, fashionable and fun individual, but she had lost herself in the end. Men had taken advantage of her when she was at her lowest and most helpless.
Some people hope that she and Dave are together in the afterlife. I just hope that wherever she is now, Tiffany is finally at peace.