EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. – An autopsy Tuesday on the first of four women's bodies found in a ditch outside Atlantic City indicated the victim had been strangled, authorities said.
"This may turn out to be four murders. We'll know that by the end of the day," said Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz.
The four women — all white, shoeless and lying face down in several inches of water — were found late Monday night, spread over about 250 feet in a ditch behind a row of three budget motels, Blitz said.
He said the bodies, which carried no identification, were in varying states of decomposition, leading investigators to speculate they may have been killed at various times elsewhere and dumped behind the motels, FOXNews reported.
Blitz said no physical evidence relating the bodies had been uncovered in the nearby motels.
Two of the victims, including the one whose autopsy was completed, were in their 20s but, until the examinations were done, the ages of the others could not be determined.
Three of the women had blonde hair; the other had lightened hair that appeared to have been dyed, Blitz said.
The one woman whose autopsy had been completed before authorities spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon appeared to have been dead for several days, Blitz said.
He said authorities were checking missing persons reports in the area, but did not yet make any connections between the victims and open cases.
The bodies were found less than 200 yards from the Atlantic City Visitors Welcome Center. One body was found by two women walking along a path, and police then found the other three bodies, authorities said.
Although Atlantic City has glitzy casinos and expensive hotels, the area where the bodies was found has become seedier in recent years, said Larry Huggup, who stays at the Golden Key Motel, behind which the drainage ditch runs and where rooms go for $15 a night.
"It's nothing but drugs, sex and violence. People try to sell you some drugs or ask if you're selling yourself," Huggup said Tuesday. "That's all there is. You can get away with anything out here."
Blitz said declined to comment on whether the women were thought to be prostitutes.
Lisa Morrow, who lives in a residential area near the strip of motels, said drug users and prostitutes routinely venture into her seaside neighborhood to ply their trades at night, either on the beach or in parked cars.
"These hotels are nothing but full of prostitutes. Something needs to be done. They're out here all the time — no shoes, no socks, tight pants, very little clothing. It is an ongoing situation and something needs to be done about it," Morrow said.
Jyotika Patel, a front desk clerk at the Golden Key, said she did not know if the dead women had been staying there.
"The clientele comes and goes," she said.
Patel refuted claims that people are known to loiter behind the motel to have sex and take drugs. She had sympathy for the four victims.
"It is sad. Life is so short," Patel said.