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

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1351)12/6/2014 2:34:10 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell  Read Replies (1) of 1390
Re: 12/5/2014 - Hartford Courant: New Plea For Clues To Unsolved Jovin Slaying In New Haven

New Plea For Clues To Unsolved Jovin Slaying In New Haven

Suzanne Jovin. (Handout)

By Alaine Griffin

Police Seek New Clues To Solve 1998 Murder Of Suzanne Jovin In New Haven

NEW HAVEN — If there ever was a December night to find witnesses to a crime in this city, it would have been on Dec. 4, 1998.

Temperatures soared oddly into the 70s on that Friday night 16 years ago, when Yale undergraduate Suzanne Jovin was stabbed to death in the East Rock section of the city.

The residential neighborhood was especially busy with joggers, dog walkers and motorists with their windows rolled down on all blocks and corners, savoring the unusual warmth. They knew a long winter was not far away.

Police officials and prosecutors turned to those neighborhood residents Thursday during a community meeting at Wilbur Cross High School, hoping for additional clues to what has become one of Connecticut's most infamous unsolved murders.

Sure, investigators said they were looking for all possible leads in the slaying of Jovin, 21, of Goettingen, Germany, a star student fluent in four languages and co-founder of Yale's German club.

But Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane was focused at Thursday night's meeting on a specific time frame, asking the crowd of about 60 people to recall what they might have seen or heard that night between 9:40 and 10 p.m.

"Some of you may have seen something that you maybe thought was a little thing, that you didn't think was significant," Kane said. "We're reaching out in a last-ditch hope that somebody remembers something. I don't expect a big piece but a few little pieces might just turn out to be a big piece."

The color of a car. An overheard word. The clothes a jogger was wearing. Any "innocent observations," Kane said.

"We have a reason for asking these questions," he added.

A student last saw Jovin walking downtown on College Street near Phelps Gate on Yale's campus at 9:25 p.m. About 10 minutes later, "multiple" witnesses said they heard a couple arguing in front of the apartment building at 750 Whitney Ave., and later in back of it, Kane said.

"We do believe another couple came out [of the building] and walked right past" the arguing couple, Kane said. "We don't know who they were and they may not be connected."

Kane said he would like to find those people, as well as anyone else who may have heard "any words, tones of voice, any description of loudness. We'd like to hear what was said, any combination of words."

Kane said "it sounds like we're reaching, but these details may be important."

Witnesses reported hearing more arguing at the intersection of East Rock and Edgehill roads, not far from 750 Whitney St., Kane said, and then some screams. There were holiday parties going on in the neighborhood, Kane said, and some witnesses were not sure if the screams were the result of play or duress.

A doctor walking in the neighborhood found Jovin near that intersection at 9:55 p.m. suffering from multiple stab wounds.

"She was still alive, still breathing, but nobody else was around," Kane said.

No one knows how Jovin traveled the approximately two miles from Phelps Gate to the intersection in a matter of minutes.

As the doctor's companion ran to get his phone to call for help, Kane said a vehicle stopped and someone inside asked the doctor if she needed help. The doctor saw two young children inside the car, thanked the driver and declined the aid. Kane said perhaps the driver of that car saw something that night.

Kane also said that just before the 911 call was placed, someone reported seeing a car near where Jovin was found. But by the time the doctor found Jovin, no car was there.

Jovin was later pronounced dead at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Kane also asked the crowd to focus on another clue, what he called "the running man," a man seen running north on Whitney Avenue, across from a church. A motorist said the man was running fast and, at one point, jumped over a fence, Kane said.

Jovin had helped out with a pizza party for the Best Buddies program of New Haven earlier that evening and had keys to a van she had rented from the university and needed to return. Kane said Jovin had told friends she did not plan to go out that night after the party.

Officials handed out a questionnaire at the meeting with a series of questions, including one that hinted at why Jovin may have been out the night she was killed. Authorities asked if anyone knew to whom Jovin had loaned graduate entrance exam materials and where the person may have lived. Jovin had written an e-mail to a friend promising to return the study materials to her the next morning after she got them back from an unnamed person.

In the e-mail, written in German at 9:02 p.m. on Dec. 4, 1998, Jovin told her friend she would leave the materials in the foyer of her apartment and gave the friend the security code to the apartment so she could enter.

Kane said Jovin may have been out retrieving those materials the night she was killed.

"There was an effort to get them back," Kane said. "Was that the reason she went out that night?"

In 2006, the Jovin investigation was turned over to the cold-case unit of the chief state's attorney's office after New Haven police, the state forensics laboratory, federal agencies and private investigators hired by Yale and Jovin's family failed to solve the crime.

No one in attendance Thursday offered any new clues publicly. Some asked about DNA evidence and whether Jovin — who had written a senior research paper on Osama bin Laden — may have been a victim of a terrorist attack. Kane declined to talk about evidence, sticking only to his plea for any and all information about the last minutes of Jovin's life.

At the end of the meeting, Kane turned to the audience and told them he hoped to return to the East Rock neighborhood someday with some good news.

"I'd love to meet again and say, 'Here's the real story,'" Kane said. "I want nothing more before I get buried than to look at you people and say, 'Here's what happened.'"

Copyright © 2014, Hartford Courant
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