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Crime & Courts

Severed head found in New Jersey in '89 ID'd, linked to serial killer

Cold Case Severed Hea_Angu.jpg

In this Dec. 17, 1993 file photo, Joel Rifkin, right, is led to the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola, N.Y., for a suppression hearing. New Jersey State Police said Wednesday, March 27, 2013, that 25-year-old Heidi Balch likely was the first victim of Rifkin, who is in prison in New York after admitting he killed 17 women in the early 1990s. Balchs severed head was found on a golf course in Hopewell Township, near Trenton, N.J., in March 1989. (AP)

A New Jersey cold case from 1989 — when a woman’s severed head was found on a golf course — has reportedly been closed now that police have identified the homicide victim.

DNA evidence confirmed this month the dead woman is Heidi Balch, a 25-year-old New York City woman whose head was found on a Hopewell golf course and whose legs were found in Jefferson Township in 1989, the Times of Trenton reports.

“It was a long investigation, it was a long, intense investigation,” said former Hopewell Detective Bruce Carnall, who was the lead investigator on the case from 1989 until his retirement in 2005. “This could have been easily put aside and forgotten.”

Investigators now believe Balch was working as a prostitute when she was murdered in New York in March 1989, just days before being dismembered and having her body parts scattered throughout New Jersey. Balch may have a connection to notorious serial killer Joel Rifkin, who claimed in 1993 that he murdered Balch in New York City. No charges have been filed against Rifkin in connection to her death, and Hopewell police said authorities in New Jersey will not press charges against him.

Rifkin, 54, is serving more than 200 years in a New York state prison for nine murders. He claimed he murdered 17 prostitutes during his years as a serial killer, including Balch. He claimed the young woman identified as Balch called herself “Susie.”

Carnall doesn’t just take Rifkin at his word; he sees similarities between Balch’s murder and the other killings Rifkin has admitted to.

“He obviously did it,” Carnall said. “There’s no doubt.”

A golfer on the seventh hole of the Hopewell Valley Golf Club found Balch’s head near the waters of the Stony Brook on March 5, 1989. A blood test a few weeks later revealed the presence of the AIDS virus.

Click for more from the Times of Trenton.

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