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Pastimes : Murder Mystery: Who Killed Yale Student Suzanne Jovin?

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1192)7/11/2004 1:00:47 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell  Read Replies (1) of 1390
Re: 7/11/04 - New Haven Register: Ex-Yale teacher pushes to clear name

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Ex-Yale teacher pushes to clear name

Randall Beach , Register Staff 07/11/2004

NEW HAVEN — The only person ever identified as a suspect in one of the city’s most notorious unsolved murders is making a new push to clear his name.

Former Yale University teacher James Van de Velde’s attorney recently hired a private detective, and new reward posters have been put up in the East Rock neighborhood.

The posters show a smiling Suzanne Jovin, a Yale student who was murdered 5½ years ago as she walked near campus. The posters remind the public there remains a $150,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of her killer.

Van de Velde, who was a Yale lecturer and Jovin’s adviser in 1998, has consistently denied he committed the crime.

Now living in the Washington, D.C., area, Van de Velde has frequently criticized New Haven police for their investigation. He has suggested a series of forensic steps to crack the case.

His attorney, David Grudberg, said in an interview from his New Haven office that he hired Markle Investigations, which has set up a Web site and e-mail address to take tips on the Jovin case.

"Our firm has engaged them (Markle), on Jim’s behalf," Grudberg said.

He confirmed Daniel Markle, who heads Markle Investigations, is the son of Arnold Markle, the former state’s attorney in New Haven.

"Our goal is to help solve a terrible crime that everyone would love to see solved," Grudberg said.

He noted the reward, which would be paid by Yale and the state, has been offered for several years, with no result.

"In our view," Grudberg added, "the reward has not been properly publicized."

He declined to list any other places where the posters have been placed. Markle could not be reached for comment, nor could Van de Velde.

The posters, which were put on telephone poles on Edgehill Road and Whitney Avenue, note Jovin was a 21-year-old Yale student when she was stabbed to death the night of Dec. 4, 1998.

"Authorities believe Ms. Jovin was picked up by a vehicle on or near the Yale campus around 9:30 p.m.," the posters state.

They note she was found about 20 minutes later lying near the corner of Edgehill and East Rock roads.

"A passenger van may have been used in the crime," the posters add, alluding to witness reports of such a vehicle parked nearby.

The posters list a number to call with tips on the case: (877) 593-9962. An e-mail address is also listed: and a Web site:

The Web site contains an archive of news stories about the murder, the Police Department’s case profile and a lengthy analysis by Van de Velde of the investigation.

In that write-up, Van de Velde claims police indulged in "lazy speculation that perhaps Jovin was murdered by someone within Yale, perhaps even one of her instructors."

He added, "The facts of the case suggest that Suzanne Jovin was murdered in a random act of violence."

Van de Velde was identified by New Haven police as the "lead suspect" in 1999. Yale identified Van de Velde as being in a "pool of suspects."

Van de Velde’s lawsuit against New Haven police and Yale was tossed out by a judge in March. He was awarded $80,000 after suing Quinnipiac University for dismissing him from a teaching position.

New Haven police Lt. Herman Badger, who is in charge of the Investigative Services Division, declined to comment on Van de Velde’s analysis.

Badger said he hadn’t seen the posters, but he said, "That’s fine with us. We welcome any information. We’re constantly looking for a successful conclusion to the investigation."

Badger said three detectives continue to work on the Jovin case. "It always remains at our forefront. It’s an everyday investigation."

The Jovin family could not be reached for comment.

Like the case itself, the posters have been controversial. At least one was seen downtown on Chapel Street earlier last week but it had vanished by Friday.

Meanwhile, a man who lives near the crime scene said he has taken down many of the posters.

Philip Langdon, a writer who specializes on urban issues, said in an e-mail that he removed some of the Jovin posters because he considers them "unseemly," and their posting was "a tawdry stunt."

Noting the emphasis on the $150,000 reward, Langdon said, "It seems crass, as if this were the Wild West of bounty hunters and others eager to make a profit from someone’s crime or a person’s death."

Langdon questioned the posters’ effectiveness, since police years ago went door-to-door in the neighborhood seeking information in the case.

David Cameron, a Yale professor of political science who has criticized police handling of the Jovin case, said the posters are "eye-catching" with their dual photos of Jovin.

"I don’t think they’ll do any good, 5½ years later," Cameron said. "But who knows? Maybe they will."

Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

Will new efforts by James van de Velde resolve the mystery of Suzanne Jovin's murder? Tell us in Town Talk.

©New Haven Register 2004
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