It's been almost three months since the bodies of four murdered prostitutes were found in a marshy drainage ditch behind a string of seedy motels just outside Atlantic City.

Other than identifying the bodies and offering some details about the causes of death, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office has provided little information about its investigation into the sensational case.

There have been no arrests.

There do not appear to be any suspects.

The investigation appears to have stalled.

The murders were featured in a segment of America's Most Wanted. But since that show was telecast in December, there has been little to report.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz said that the Major Crimes squad in his office, with assistance from local police and the FBI, continues to work the case.

"Nothing has changed," Blitz said in a telephone interview the other day. "We still meet every morning. There are leads that are being pursued."

Blitz described the investigation as "methodical" and detailed. But as he has since the case burst into the headlines, he declined to discuss specifics.

A retired Atlantic City vice squad cop suggested that the Prosecutor's Office dropped the ball by not "flooding" the streets of Atlantic City with police in the hours immediately after the bodies were discovered on Nov. 20.

Jim Hutchins, a vice squad police captain who retired on Dec. 1, said his investigators were not asked to provide assistance until three days after the grisly discovery.

"They didn't throw enough resources at it soon enough," said Hutchins. "They should have flooded the streets. We should have been talking to informants, offering money. Somebody had to see something. . . . They don't even know where the crime scene is."

Where the women were killed, how they were killed, and how their bodies ended up in the water behind one of the motels are three crucial questions that need answers if the case is to be solved, he said.

The women, ranging in age from 20 to 42, were part of "the life" in Atlantic City. They were hookers who worked the streets. At least three were believed to be drug addicts.

"They were victims of their lifestyle," said Hutchins.

"They do anything, they go anywhere" for crack, he said.

All four women appear to have been killed by the same person. All were believed to have been strangled or suffocated, although the bodies of two were so badly decomposed that a cause of death could not be determined.

The Prosecutor's Office has not described the homicides as the work of a serial killer. Experts and TV shows like America's Most Wanted have strongly suggested that possibility.

"I think it would reasonable to say the guy has left the area," said Hutchins, who said he and several other former police officials who retired late last year meet regularly and continue to speculate on the case.

The bodies were found in the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township behind the Golden Key Motel along the Black Horse Pike. Hutchins' department had no jurisdiction in the case, but all four of the victims worked the streets of his city.

Two had been arrested by his vice squad detectives.

"It was a street crime, and we needed to work the streets," he said. "You can't go out there at 4 in the afternoon. You have to be out there at 2 a.m., at 5 a.m., when the hookers are out."

The facts in the case are like pieces of a puzzle that has yet to take shape: All four women were white and had blond or light hair; all four bodies were found in the watery ditch with their heads pointing east toward Atlantic City; all four were shoeless.

Investigators spent a lot of time searching Room 101 of the Golden Key Motel, but have never disclosed why.

What, if any, significance should be attached to any of that remains a mystery.

"They were all pointing east, but the tides could have caused the bodies to shift," Hutchins said.

Did their shoes fall off at some point, he asked, "or were they this guy's trophies?"

Did the killing of the first victim "trigger" something in the murderer's mind that led him to kill others, or were all four killings part of a pattern?

These are the kinds of questions Hutchins said he and his friends have been kicking around since they retired.

No one has the answers.

And speculation and gossip further muddy the waters.

One admitted prostitute, in a series of telephone interviews from prison, said she was with one of the victims in the days leading up to her disappearance.

She described a series of drug-fueled parties in motels in Atlantic City and a final encounter with victim Kim Raffo at the Golden Key Motel three days before her body was discovered.

Pamela Covelli, the admitted prostitute, said she was questioned at length by investigators and shown the picture of a man who she said supplied drugs to her and Raffo and partied with them that week.

Covelli's story could not be verified. The man has not been charged.

Covelli said she last saw Raffo at the Golden Key on Friday, Nov. 17. Both she and Raffo had "dates" that night with Asian men, Covelli said. She said that she had planned to meet up with Raffo later at a nearby bar and restaurant, but that she never saw the woman again.

Raffo, 35, was the first victim identified by investigators. Her body had been in the water only a few days, authorities said, when it was discovered on Nov. 20. The other victims were Tracy Ann Roberts, 23, Barbara V. Breidor, 42, and Molly Jean Dilts, 20.

An autopsy revealed significant amounts of cocaine in Raffo and Roberts and a large, perhaps lethal, quantity of heroin in Breidor, according to information released by the Prosecutor's Office.

The office has established a tip line - 609-909-7666 - and has asked for the public's assistance.

But many veteran investigators, like Hutchins, believe that it's too late, that the trail has gone cold.

"They've got to get lucky," he said. "If it happens again somewhere else and police there make the connection, maybe the case gets solved. But it's going to take luck."

Meanwhile, life on the streets continues.

On a weekend night last week, Atlantic City police conducted a sweep of several locations where hookers are known to ply their trade. Fourteen women were arrested on prostitution charges.

Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or