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

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1241)1/10/2008 5:49:52 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell  Read Replies (1) of 1389
Re: 8/2007 - Avenues to Investigate in the Jovin Cold Case Homicide

In his August 2007 letter to Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, Van de Velde attached the following list of suggestions for investigators to consider:


Crime Date: December 4, 1998, approximately 9:45 pm
Jovin found at the corner of East Rock and Edgehill Roads,
New Haven, Connecticut bleeding from multiple stab wounds

1) The Fresca soda bottle found at the crime scene had on it two fingerprints: Jovin’s and that of a not-yet-identified person. If the bottle is still available (i.e., if the New Haven police did not destroy the evidence or allow the fingerprint to degrade), the DNA of the second print should be discerned and compared to the DNA found under the victim’s fingernails. If there is a match, the likelihood that this is the killer’s DNA is enormous. The only chance of innocent contact would be if the convenience store clerk who stocked the Fresca also happened to be at the cashier’s station when Jovin visited and somehow had his palm scratched by Jovin when retrieving change. Other than that extremely unlikely scenario, if the DNA under the fingernails and on the soda bottle match, the DNA belongs to the perpetrator.

2) Since several witnesses report seeing a suspicious van parked at the crime scene at the time of the crime, investigators should compare the circumstances of Jovin’s death to deadly or potentially deadly abductions known to have been carried out in by Connecticut men driving vans. Notice should be taken of John F. Regan and William Devlin Howell, both of whom used vans in their abductions. If the Jovin crime scene DNA (bottle and/or fingernail) has not been compared to the DNA of each of these criminals, it should be. Regan, of course, is the Waterbury family man who was much in the news in 2005-6 because of the latest of his sexual assaults: using his van in a failed attempt in Saratoga Springs, NY to abduct a 17-year-old high school female athlete. Regan subsequently pled guilty and was sentenced in July 2006 to 12 years in New York prisons for the attempted kidnapping. Earlier, at Governor Rell’s November 21, 2005, press conference trumpeting the value of Connecticut’s DNA Data Base, Henry Lee described how DNA evidence had broken open an 11-year-old case about a woman kidnapped and raped by John Regan in 1993. Howell is the Connecticut man now at the top of the Cold Case Unit’s website listing of solved cases. On January 30, 2006, he pled guilty to the July 2003 abduction and murder of Nilsa Arizmendi of Wethersfield. It was the victim’s blood found in his van—by North Carolina police on a Connecticut warrant—that led to his arrest. Additional blood was discovered in his van and was never identified, as the Connecticut Cold Case Unit’s very own website makes clear. The State, in fact, appealed to the public for help to discover whose blood was in Howell’s van.

3) The crime-scene DNA and the DNA for Regan and Howell should be compared to all possible CODIS names in Connecticut and elsewhere.

4) The tip of the knife used in the Jovin attack was broken off and lodged inside Jovin’s head. The metallurgy of the knife tip should be discerned and traced to a manufacturer. If a manufacturer can be identified, perhaps the type of knife can be too.

5) A microscopic forensic analysis should be conducted on Jovin's sweatshirt--reported covered with blood—to determine molecular trace elements deposited on Jovin's clothing. Such an analysis could identify dirt and tire molecules, among other unique substances, which can be traced to a specific region or vehicle. A microscopic forensic test might show whether Jovin's clothing was in contact with the floor of a Dodge B250 van, the type the New Haven police said was seen at the crime scene, or of some other van.

6) The DNA found under Jovin’s fingernail and the DNA discerned from the fingerprint on the soda bottle found at the crime scene should be entered into the Connecticut and Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and periodically compared with the samples entered not only in CT but in the other states.

7) The DNA in the blood under Jovin’s fingernails had a rare or unusual marker. That might allow the DNA to be compared more easily than would otherwise be the case, by limiting the comparison to samples that have that marker. Furthermore, that unusual marker should be made public, in the hopes that the public could help identify suspects.

8) Determine the age of the individual through testing the hormones left within the fingerprints found on the Fresca soda bottle found at the crime scene. (The State’s forensics lab could perform this test.)

9) Conduct a sweat print analysis on the clothing. Dale Perry of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California can do one as small as 10 micrometers across - smaller than a single fingerprint ridge. He uses a synchrotron, a particle accelerator to produce intense light that, when shone at the sample, is absorbed and reveals a chemical makeup that may be unique. If not unique to a person, it can at least segregate age and sex. This technique requires very little sample.

10) Determine the ethnicity of the individual through analysis of the DNA found under the fingernails of Jovin. Any result could be potentially helpful. Consider the possibility that the individual is Indo-European, Asian or African. Then match the ethnicity with the age of the individual, and one has a new lead.

11) Perform a microscopic forensic analysis to determine molecular trace elements deposited on Jovin's clothing, which could identify dirt and tire molecules, among other unique substances, which can be traced to a specific region or vehicle. A microscopic forensic test might show whether Jovin's clothing was in contact with the floor of a Dodge B250 van, the type police said was seen at the crime scene, or of some other van. Skip Palenik in Chicago, for instance, could perform such analysis (see:

12) The NHPD failed to investigate or even interview some of the more likely individuals associated with the last event Jovin attended: the party at the Best Buddies (Special Adult) program in New Haven the very evening of her death. The director of that Program, Ms. Dawn DeFeo, claims only a few individuals from her organization were interviewed regarding the crime and none, as far as she knows, was asked to provide a DNA sample. Yet one of the individuals of the program was no longer included in the program in part because of a complaint filed by Jovin concerning his treatment of a Program member. That individual had an ‘anger management’ problem and perhaps had access to Marrakech Program vans which were used to transport program members. Some relevant facts, according to DeFeo:
• Jovin was upset with the Program (named Marrakech; she had complained about the staff assistant in particular).
• There was a fire in her buddy’s apartment that she believed was caused by the assistant's negligence. The assistant allowed her Buddy to operate the stove in the apartment, which he wasn't supposed to do, and the result was a fire.
• The staff assistant did other things she thought inappropriate.
• He was subsequently moved to a position that could be regarded as a demotion.
• He had an "anger management issue" problem.
• The individual has not been asked for a fingerprint or DNA sample.

In addition, regardless of how many of these suggestions are explored, the unsolved Jovin slaying should be posted--as soon as possible--as a current cold case (with the exceptional $150,000 reward noted) on the Chief State's Attorney's website.

James Van de Velde, August 7, 2007
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