|Re: 7/2/08 - Hartford Courant: Sketch Of Man Circulated In Death Of Yale Student|
Sketch Of Man Circulated In Death Of Yale Student
By DAVE ALTIMARI | Courant Staff Writer
July 2, 2008
The team reinvestigating the 1998 killing of Yale University senior Suzanne Jovin is circulating a sketch of a man spotted running near the scene, a potential breakthrough that was quickly dismissed a decade ago by investigators who focused instead on Jovin's thesis adviser.
Sources familiar with the case said a Hamden woman was driving slowly north on Whitney Avenue in New Haven's East Rock neighborhood shortly before 10 p.m. on Dec. 4, 1998, when the man ran in front of her car, glanced quickly at her and fled.
That sighting has drawn interest from a team of retired state police detectives investigating the killing. Jovin was discovered face down with 17 stab wounds in her back and head near the corner of Edgehill and East Rock roads, less than a half-mile from where the man was spotted.
Investigators believe Jovin was killed shortly before 10 p.m.
John Mannion, the head of the team probing the slaying, said investigators aren't calling the man in the picture a "suspect" or "person of interest."
"He is somebody that we'd like to find and interview to see why he was running at that time on that street," Mannion said.
Mannion said investigators decided to release the picture despite some misgivings about the composite.
"The witness saw this person for just a few seconds in the dark before he ran off," Mannion said.
The woman has told investigators the man had "blondish hair, chiseled features and was wearing dark clothes and a loose-fitting green-colored jacket."
Investigators recently had a forensic artist meet with the woman. She came forward 10 years ago and spoke to New Haven detectives. Sources said the police at the time showed her a photo of Yale Professor James Van de Velde — Jovin's thesis adviser, whom police had publicly identified as a suspect — to determine if he was the man she saw. They also took her in an unmarked van to Van de Velde's office so she could look at him in person.
She told them Van de Velde was not the man she saw running, and investigators didn't contact her again, sources said.
Recently, investigators have been going door to door along Everit, Cold Spring and Huntington streets, in the area where the man was spotted running, showing residents the composite. The area is full of homes and apartments rented by Yale graduate students. The composite also has been placed in stores in the area.
New Haven police focused intently on Van de Velde following a four-hour interrogation at police headquarters a few days after Jovin died. After police identified Van de Velde as being in a "pool of suspects," Yale canceled Van de Velde's class, claiming the murder investigation would be a distraction for students. He left the university a few months later.
Van de Velde has vehemently denied any involvement in Jovin's slaying. He has criticized New Haven police, claiming they focused exclusively on him and ignored leads that could have led to the killer. He later sued both Yale and New Haven police in federal court, but the lawsuit was dismissed. He is appealing that dismissal.
For more than a year, the new team of retired state police detectives has been reviewing the case. They were hired by Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane and were supposed to retrace the previous investigations, but they have been pursuing leads of their own.
In 2000, New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington gave two former New York City police-turned-private-investigators, Patrick J. Harnett and Andrew Rosenzweig, access to the case files. The men were hired by Yale. Harnett later became Hartford's police chief.
Harnett and Rosenzweig worked on the case for more than a year before running into a dispute with New Haven prosecutor James Clark, who is overseeing the investigation. The dispute centered on tests the men tried to get the state forensic lab to perform on evidence without seeking Clark's approval.
The private investigators obtained a DNA sample from Van de Velde, which prosecutors compared to DNA found under one of Jovin's fingernails. The samples did not match him or anyone else who had been tested.
Contact Dave Altimari at email@example.com.