|Re: 7/2/08 - NH Register: Cops seek 'running man' in 1998 Jovin slaying |
Cops seek 'running man' in 1998 Jovin slaying
By William Kaempffer, Register Staff 07/02/2008
NEW HAVEN — Hoping to jog decade-old memories, members of a four-person team trying to revive the investigation of the 1998 slaying of a Yale co-ed went door-to-door in the East Rock neighborhood over the weekend, handing out fliers and asking: Do you recognize this man?
Shown was an artist’s rendering of a man in his 20s or 30s with an athletic build, well-groomed hair, dark pants, a loose-fitting greenish jacket, running like his life depended on it in the opposite direction from where Suzanne Jovin was killed.
Whoever this person is, New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington said Tuesday, there’s no suggestion that he was involved in the death.
“People should not infer that he’s responsible for the death of Suzanne Jovin,” he said.
But the team of investigators would still like to identify him.
“Who is this individual? As a witness, maybe he can help us out with this investigation,” said John Mannion, the retired head of the state police Central Major Crimes Unit, who is heading the team of retired state investigators.
To be certain, the door-to-door effort is a long shot.
Jovin, a Yale senior, was killed Dec. 4, 1998, and the East Rock area has a large transient Yale contingent. Many of the people who lived there when Jovin was killed have graduated, moved out of New Haven and have gotten on with their lives.
“A lot of us got a visit,” said Celeste Suggs, an eight-year resident of Everit Street. That area was a focal point for the investigators this weekend, since a witness saw the man hurdle a shrub and disappear into a church property that led to Everit Street.
They asked Suggs to look at the drawing and the witness’ description.
“I just wish it all would have been asked 10 years ago,” she said.
The witness account is nothing new.
A female motorist told police at the time that she was driving in the area of Whitney Avenue and Huntington Street at about 10 p.m. when she saw a white male sprint past her and disappear into the church property. Jovin, who was stabbed about 17 times in the back and neck, was found at 9:55 p.m., two blocks away at Edgehill and East Rock roads.
Mannion said his team re-interviewed the driver, and reduced the description to a composite drawing with her help.
“We just had a belief that she witnessed something that night,” Mannion said. The team isn’t putting great stock in the composite, he said. It was based on a decade-old memory and a split-second encounter in the dark of night.
They feel more confident with her description: The flier describes the man as a physically fit, athletic-looking white male with defined features, in his 20s or 30s, with well-groomed blond or dark blond hair.
Yale lecturer James Van de Velde, the only suspect ever named in the case, has never been charged and has professed his innocence from the beginning, claiming New Haven police bungled the investigation from the start.
“I’m encouraged by any possible new lead that would help solve the crime,” said attorney David Grudberg, who represents Van de Velde. “I’m a little puzzled why it would take nearly 10 years to take this step, if information supposedly was available in 1998. I think it’s an indication of the tunnel vision that plagued the investigation from day one.”
When asked what Van de Velde’s status was, Mannion repeated New Haven prosecutor Jim Clark’s assertion last year about suspects: “No one is a suspect. Everyone is a suspect.”
So far, the team has not contacted Van de Velde, who was 38 at the time of the killing.
“He’s still someone that’s part of the file, of course, and we might some day reach out to him, but right now we’re not,” Mannion said.
The four retired state police investigators took on the case about a year ago. They are being paid $1 a year.
On Everit Street, longtime residents who received a visit from the investigators vividly recalled the killing, but could offer no assistance. Fliers remained in windows of popular businesses on Orange Street such as Romeo and Cesare’s.
“They just wanted to know if this was ringing a bell for anyone,” said Paulette Cohen, a 26-year resident of Everit Street. “It would be nice to get some closure.”
©New Haven Register 2008