|Re: 12/4/03 - NH Register: Van de Velde lawyer wants new eyes on case |
Van de Velde lawyer wants new eyes on case
Randall Beach and William Kaempffer , Register Staff 12/04/2003
Posters of Yale senior Suzanne Jovin were plastered across the city five years ago, after she was found slain at the corner of East Rock and Edgehill roads in New Haven. Her killer was never found. Register file photo
NEW HAVEN — Exactly five years after the murder of Yale student Suzanne Jovin, supporters of the only named suspect in the unsolved crime say it’s time New Haven police turned over the investigation to the state’s cold case unit.
"This case needs a fresh look," said David Grudberg, attorney for James Van de Velde, a former Yale political science lecturer. "The investigation was botched from the very beginning."
But when asked about sending the investigation to the cold case unit, New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington said, "It’s not going to be done."
Dearington said he would not ask for the chief state’s attorney’s cold case personnel to take over because he continues to have "confidence in the people working on it now."
Several days after the murder, police said Van de Velde, Jovin’s senior thesis adviser, was in the "pool of suspects."
Police have never publicly removed him from the pool, nor have they publicly identified any other possible suspects. Van de Velde has consistently maintained his innocence, and he has never been charged.
Van de Velde is now based in the Washington, D.C., area where he took a job as an intelligence analyst for the Department of Defense. He has sued the New Haven police for damaging his reputation, career and health by naming him as a suspect despite what Grudberg called "a complete lack of evidence." Van de Velde has also sued Yale officials.
In the past, Van de Velde also urged the investigation be turned over to the cold case unit. He declined to comment for this story.
New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr. did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment on the cold case question, but in an interview several days earlier, Ortiz said he was hopeful Jovin’s killer would eventually be apprehended.
Earlier this year, city Detective Mike Quinn, who is assigned to the case, traveled to Washington in an effort to get Van de Velde to take a polygraph test, sources said.
Before landing work in Washington, Van de Velde, a former naval intelligence officer, passed security background checks at the Pentagon.
New Haven police sources said detectives wanted defense officials to compel Van de Velde to take another lie detector test, which the government can do as a condition of his security clearance.
Van de Velde passed a polygraph test administered by an examiner hired by Grudberg, sources have said.
Grudberg this week said he was mystified about why police continue to focus on his client, especially since DNA evidence from Jovin’s fingernail does not match that of Van de Velde.
Two years ago, Dearington announced that the DNA existed and said it didn’t match Van de Velde.
Dearington said investigators were uncertain if it came from innocent contact with a friend or from a defensive struggle with the killer.
At the time, police said they were seeking Jovin’s friends and associates to check against the DNA.
Grudberg said he was stunned that police are harping on circumstantial evidence when they have DNA.
Find the match and you find the killer, he said.
"That’s real evidence, the stuff that solves crimes," Grudberg said.
Van de Velde’s longtime friend Jeff Mitchell said, "The stigma is still with him wherever he goes."
He said Van de Velde spends every day "trying to figure something to do to advance the case ... to get somebody with fresh eyes to look at it."
Randall Beach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 789-5766. William Kaempffer can be reached at email@example.com, or 789-5727.
©New Haven Register 2003