Joe Rukaj, also known as Gjelosh Rukaj, was a New York lottery winner who murdered his pregnant lover, Rigaletta Nikc, and her father-in-law, Marc Nikaj, over 20 years ago. This weekend, Investigation Discovery’s television crime series Your Number’s Up will revisit the crime. The episode based on the Rukaj case is titled “Fortune’s Curse,” which details how a $17 million lottery winner lives the life of his dreams before he loses it all after a blood-based family feud leaves a pregnant mistress and a family member dead in an infamous gunfight at their upscale home.
September 11, 1996 — Westchester County: 2 Dead
Joe Rukaj (Gjelosh Rukaj), of Rye, was arrested in 1996 for the Westchester deaths of his mistress and a family member. Before his arrest, 911 dispatchers were called to a bloody scene at 16 Bedford Rd. in the Mount Pleasant community of Chappaqua, New York, where they found the bodies of a 31-year-old dark-haired beauty named Rigaletta Nikc, and her dead father-in-law, 58-year-old Marc Nikaj.
An autopsy report for Rigaletta Nikc indicated that she was two to three months pregnant and had sustained gunshot wounds to the body. Mark Nikaj, aka Marc Nikac, also died of gunshot wounds.
Joe Rukaj, who had arrived at the police station that night bleeding, stated that he shot Rigaletta Nikc and Mark Nikaj in self defense after he was ambushed at their home, the New York Daily News reported.
Court records show that Gjelosh “Joseph” Rukaj, (pronounced Joe Rukai), was involved in a bitter custody battle with Rigaletta “Vicky” Nikc over visitation rights of her daughter. They had been lovers for quite some time, but when the relationship was exposed and later soured, Joseph Rukaj wanted to see his daughter but was not permitted to do so. What evolved after that was a contemptuous relationship between Joe and Rigaletta, causing an intense family feud that led to the deadly shootout.
In the hours before the killings, Rigaletta had tried to gain a restraining order against Joe Rukaj for his harassing and angry phone calls, in which he threatened to come to the house to get his daughter. According to the New York Times, Rigaletta dared him to do so and even taunted him by telling to come if he was man enough. Here’s an excerpt of the phone call that was played for the jury.
“Come and get the girl! Come! You know the address. If you’re man enough, come and get her.”
“Why should we have a confrontation for nothing?”
A New York jury found Gjelosh “Joseph” Rukaj guilty for the second-degree murder of Marc Nikaj but not guilty in the death of Rigaletta Nikc. The reason for that ruling was partly because it was proven that Rigaletta had fired the first shot.
Issues In This Very Confusing Case
For those looking to do more research online or through databases, please note that the names are spelled differently in many cases. Below, you’ll find some other key points in the murder case.
- Gjelosh Rukaj or Joe Rukaj had sex with Rigaletta, a family member’s wife, and impregnated her, which seems to have started the family feud.
- Rigaletta Nikc or Rigaletta Nikac, aka Vickie or Vicky, is the daughter-in-law to the other victim, Mark Nikac, also referred to as Marc Nikaj. He used a different spelling of his last name.
- Antonio Nikc is Rigaletta’s husband.
- Joe’ Rukaj’s wife is named Katrina with whom he had four children.
- Rigaletta was shot dead in front of her children.
- The shootout was supposedly part of some sort of Albanian code of honor.
The family was a group of Albanian immigrants who came to America and established various businesses. Joseph Rukaj (Gjelosh) was a real estate investor who won $35 million dollars in the New York State lottery, which he split with another person, leaving him $17.5 million dollars richer. The New York newspapers had a field day with the big win and later the grisly double killings.
Today, Joe Rukaj is incarcerated at Sing Sing prison in New York, where he is serving 20 to life. He is listed in their database as Gjelosh Rukaj. In an eerie twist, his son, Pat Rukaj, aka Patrick Rukaj, assaulted a classmate at the age of 17, and the classmate, Rob Viscome, died of his injuries. Somehow, Pat Rukaj, though he was arrested initially, was able to get out of doing prison time for the boy’s death.
Jeanine Pirro sits atop her pedestal & judges everyone as media now. I'll never have respect for her after Rob Viscome's case in 2002.— Nick Spano (@NickSpano) March 10, 2016
RIP Rob Viscome my big bro, can't believe its 10 years, missing you every day #77 #foreverwatchingoverme— Brittany Bauman ☪ (@BrittBauman13) April 30, 2012
According to an Instagram page, Patrick Rukaj is now an Albanian model who works under the name Patrick Rukai.
To get more details, watch Your Number’s Up tonight at 10 p.m. on Investigation Discovery (ID). Recently, Inquisitr reported on the murder of lottery winner Jeffrey Dampier.
[Image via Andrey_Popov/ShutterStock]