Nearly 25 years later, the severed head of a woman found on March 5, 1989, on a golf course in Hopewell, New Jersey, has finally been identified. Known until now as only Jane Doe, Case File 288UFNJ, authorities confirmed on March 27, 2013, that the head belonged to Heidi Balch, 25, a known prostitute and drug addict, who worked in New York. Strangely Balch wasn’t reported missing until 2001, because her family was aware of her profession and her use of different names and Social Security numbers. Also, her family had informal reports of sightings of Balch up until 1995, though they never actually saw her.
Convicted serial killer Joel Rifkin, who is believed to have killed 17 women before being caught, had confessed to more murders than police had bodies for, which is not unusual in serial killer cases. He is currently serving a more-than-200-year sentence for nine murders. One of the murders to which he confessed was that of a prostitute named Susie, his first victim. He told investigators that he had picked her up in the New York City’s East Villageone night in March 1989 around 10 p.m. He said that he beat and strangled her before dismembering her, removing her fingertips and pulling out her teeth. He put her head in an old paint can, and dumped the head and legs in a wooded area near Hopewell. The arms and torso he dumped in the East River.
In an effort to identify Susie, investigators followed Rifkin’s lead to a New York prostitute and drug addict, who went by the alias Susie Spencer. Spencer, however, had multiple aliases and Social Security numbers from different states. Many turned out to be dead ends, but persistence on the part of investigators revealed that she had also used the alias Heidi Balch.
In March 2013, a photo of Susie Spencer was identified as Heidi Balch by the aunt that had filed the missing person report. Police were able to obtain DNA samples from Balch’s parents, which confirmed that the head belonged to their daughter. Needless to say Balch’s family was shocked to find that she had not been lost all these years, but killed at the hands of a serial killer no less.
It is not known if prosecutors will press charges against Rifkin for Balch’s murder.