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   PastimesMurder Mystery: Who Killed Yale Student Suzanne Jovin?

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1182)2/5/2004 3:56:20 PM
From: scion
   of 1390
The standard line is abysmally low in content and that's because accountability is missing. Hiding behind vague assertions that "the authorities" know best does little to enhance credibility.

I always worry when the "Grey They" are in charge of anything. It's too easy to shuffle the blame along to another member one of the "they"...

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1182)2/5/2004 4:08:50 PM
From: Bear Down
   of 1390
Best of luck with the motions and following trial.

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who started this subject2/8/2004 7:14:40 PM
From: John Sladek
   of 1390
Anthrax case lawsuit to go on, judge rules
Ex-bioweapons expert alleges government leaks have smeared his name

By Scott Shane
Sun Staff
Originally published February 7, 2004

WASHINGTON - A federal judge yesterday kept alive Dr. Steven J. Hatfill's lawsuit against the FBI and Justice Department for allegedly smearing him with selective leaks from their anthrax investigation.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he would permit Hatfill's attorneys to submit questions and request documents from the government and news organizations.

Hatfill, a former U.S. Army bioweapons expert identified by Attorney General John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the anthrax case, claims public statements, leaks and surveillance by the government since 2002 have derailed his career and wrecked his life.

He filed suit in August, saying the harassment and leaks violated the federal Privacy Act and his constitutional rights.

The Justice Department has argued that permitting Hatfill's attorneys to question the government about leaks would interfere with the FBI investigation.

No one has been charged with mailing the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and made at least 17 others sick in 2001. In court papers, an FBI official has said 28 FBI agents and 15 postal inspectors are working on the case, and investigators have questioned 5,000 people and issued 4,000 subpoenas.

But after reviewing a secret memorandum prepared by the Justice Department, Walton said he is still not convinced that allowing Hatfill's lawsuit to proceed will hurt the investigation.

"The problem I'm having, to be very candid, is that I could see us here this time next year in the exact same posture that we're in now," Walton said. "I do agree with Dr. Hatfill's position that based on what he's alleging, he's been injured. To require that he remain in limbo indefinitely is a problem."

After an hour-long hearing, Walton directed Hatfill's attorneys to submit written questions and document demands to the government by Feb. 27. Then Justice Department lawyers will have to specify how answering the questions will do harm.

Walton ruled that Hatfill's attorneys are free to submit questions about the alleged leaks to people outside the federal government.

Mark A. Grannis, an attorney for Hatfill, gave three examples of allegations about Hatfill that the news media attributed to federal sources. One was a report that FBI agents had found a sample of Bacillus thuringiensis, a relative of the anthrax bacteria used as a pesticide, in his refrigerator. Another was a report that bloodhounds "went crazy" matching a scent from the anthrax letters to Hatfill's scent. The third was that Hatfill was given a lie detector test by the FBI in July 2002.

While not confirming the reports, Grannis said Hatfill should be allowed to find out who leaked them to reporters.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark E. Nagle said many allegations about Hatfill were attributed in the news reports to "government sources" or "law enforcement officials," not to the FBI. He suggested that leaks may have come from state or local police cooperating with the FBI.

In addition to Hatfill's lawsuit, the government is defending a suit filed by the family of Robert Stevens, the photo editor in Florida who was the first person to die of anthrax. That suit claims the mailed anthrax originated in a government biodefense program.

Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun | Get home delivery

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1180)2/11/2004 8:14:24 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1390
Re: 2/10/04 - Yale Daily News: Van de Velde, Yale and the Jovin Investigation


Published Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Van de Velde, Yale and the Jovin Investigation

To the Editor:

The News is to be commended for the magazine article that appeared on Feb. 5 regarding the investigation of the murder of Suzanne Jovin '99 and the continuing suspicion cast upon James Van de Velde '82, at the time a lecturer in political science, one of Jovin's teachers, and the adviser of her senior essay.

There are, however, several factual inaccuracies in the article.

First, the article states that Van de Velde was fired from Yale. That is wrong. He had a one-year appointment as a lecturer. As often happens with such appointments, it was not renewed.

Second, the article states that I said that Yale's decision to cancel Van de Velde's spring 1999 classes just before the start of the semester ruined his life. It was not the decision to cancel his classes that has caused such immense damage to him but the fact that Yale issued a public statement that said it had been informed by the New Haven police that he was in a "pool of suspects". Prior to that announcement on Jan. 11, 1999 the police had not publicly identified him as a suspect; even after Yale's announcement, the New Haven Police chief and spokeswoman did not use the word "suspect" in referring to him.

Both prior to that announcement and in the five years since, the police investigation has produced no evidence -- physical, forensic or circumstantial -- linking Van de Velde to the murder. In late 2000, two retired New York homicide investigators -- one of whom worked on the notorious "Son of Sam" case, the other renowned for his work on "cold" cases -- were brought into the investigation, paid by Yale and given full access to the investigation. Over the course of two years, they found no evidence linking Van de Velde to the murder. What has caused him such immense damage over the past five years is not the fact that Yale cancelled his classes, but the fact that it publicly identified him as a suspect and then -- even after years of intensive investigation, including by investigators it had retained, had failed to produce any evidence of his involvement in the murder -- refused (and still refuses) to say that its investigators found no evidence that he murdered Jovin.

Third, the article quotes me with regard to the competence or lack thereof exhibited in the investigation. I was the chairman of the department in 1998 and assisted the Yale and New Haven Police in various ways in the weeks and months after the murder. The Yale Police were highly professional in their conduct of the investigation and exercised excellent judgment as they investigated the many leads and tips they received. The New Haven Police likewise were professional and dedicated to solving the case, and I have no doubt they did the best they could in a difficult investigation.

But the fact remains that a number of mistakes were made in the investigation:

- Henry Lee, the world-renowned forensic scientist, often says the first and most important thing in solving a case such as this is the existence of a good crime scene. The crime scene in this case was not well preserved. An officer who was at the scene later said it was "atrocious" from a forensics point of view. People milled about and walked -- even drove -- through the crime scene that evening and the next day.

- Lee, at the time the state commissioner of public safety and head of the state police forensic lab, called the New Haven Police late in the evening of the murder and offered his assistance and that of his staff. His offer was rejected.

- Lee offered to reconstruct the crime. Eventually, after the New Haven Police had refused for nearly two years to provide materials he had requested for the reconstruction, he abandoned the effort.

- A Fresca soda bottle was found at the scene with Jovin's fingerprints and a partial print from someone else. According to a classmate who talked with her in the Old Campus only a half-hour before she was murdered two miles away, she did not have a soda bottle. If true, she must have purchased it after leaving the Old Campus and just before encountering the person who drove her to the vicinity of the crime scene and murdered her. By identifying immediately where the soda was purchased, the police might have been able to find witnesses who saw her buying the soda or even encountering the murderer. And they might have been able to rule in or out store employees as the source of the partial print. But they did not do that. More than a month after the murder, they were still uncertain where the soda was purchased. The source of the partial print has never been found.

- Witnesses saw a full-sized tan or light brown van parked in the road immediately adjacent to where Jovin was found, at a place where motor vehicles are very seldom if ever parked. But once the police decided Van de Velde was their suspect, they forgot about the van. It was only more than two years later, after the Yale investigators entered the case, that the police asked for the assistance of the public in finding the van. It has never been found.

- Scrapings from Jovin's fingernails contained blood. It was not until more than two years later that the scrapings were tested for DNA, by which time any DNA would have begun to disintegrate. Minute traces of a male's DNA from epithelial cells were found in the blood. The DNA did not match Van de Velde's.

- Earlier in the evening of Dec. 4, 1998, Jovin had participated in a pizza-making party for the Yale Best Buddies. The non-Yale participants were the clients and staff of the organization that provides living assistance to the clients. According to the person who coordinated arrangements between the organization's clients and the Yale Buddies, as many as 19 staff personnel may have known something about the arrangements involved in the pizza party. When I spoke with her more than two years after the murder, neither she nor as far as she knew any of the other staff had been interviewed by the police.

- Potential witnesses living in the area were never interviewed.

- Posters seeking the assistance of the public did not appear until nearly three weeks after the murder. According to a member of the Jovin family, the posters used an old picture. They contained no information as to her height, weight, hair coloring and clothes. They would, therefore, have been of little use to anyone who might have seen her that evening but did not know her.

Fourth, the article quotes the New Haven State's Attorney, Michael Dearington, as saying the Jovin case is an "ongoing case" and not a "cold" case. As I pointed out in a News Op-Ed in December ("Chief state's attorney should enter Jovin case" 12/10/03) that called upon the chief state's attorney to bring the state's "cold case unit" into the investigation, the CSA's office does not define a "cold" case as one that is no longer being investigated. Rather, it defines a "cold" case as one that remains unsolved after a long period of time. By that criterion, the Jovin case certainly is a "cold" case. Indeed, Henry Lee publicly declared it to be a "cold" case more than three years ago!

David Cameron

February 6, 2004

The writer is a professor in the Political Science Department. He was a member of the New Haven Civilian Review Board in 2001-03.

Copyright © 1995-2003 Yale Daily News Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1186)2/16/2004 12:10:32 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1390
Re: 2/16/04 - Hartford Courant: olice Are Perpetuating Injustice In Jovin, Reilly Cases

Police Are Perpetuating Injustice In Jovin, Reilly Cases
February 16, 2004
Donald Connery

Yale undergraduate Suzanne Jovin, 21, was murdered on a New Haven street on Dec. 4, 1998. Barbara Gibbons, 51, was murdered in her home in Canaan on Sept. 28, 1973.

They are the two most notorious unsolved crimes in Connecticut.

Forget the quarter-century distance between the two killings, the urban and rural settings, and the 30-year age difference of the victims. Jovin and Gibbons are now forever linked by three common denominators: massive investigative mistakes, the continuing police rejection of assistance in identifying the killers and the shameless police history of slandering innocent suspects.

Former Yale instructor James Van de Velde is, according to New Haven Deputy Police Chief Bryan Norwood, the prime suspect in Jovin's slaying. Never mind all the indicators that this was an assault by a violent stranger, not a faculty member known to the victim. Overlook the glaring errors of the investigation. Discard Van de Velde's sterling personal history and the total absence of evidence linking him to the killing.

This same cavalier attitude tainted the Gibbons murder case. Barbara Gibbons' 18-year-old son, Peter Reilly (now 48), was convicted of manslaughter back in 1974 and then famously exonerated after national publicity about mistakes and misconduct by police and prosecutors. That debacle, the worst in the 100-year history of the Connecticut State Police, led not to reforms but to a bunker mentality.

New police recruits imbibed the legend of Reilly's guilt. Police told reporters, "Our position is that we caught the killer." No serious investigation of known suspects occurred over a quarter-century. In 2000-01, it took a year and a half for Reilly and two of the state's top attorneys, Paul McQuillan and Hugh Keefe, to persuade the department to do DNA testing of crime-scene hair strands. Result: inconclusive.

Last summer, I joined the weekly Lakeville Journal in seeking access to the Gibbons file through the Freedom of Information Act. As the historian of the case, I wanted to more fully understand how Connecticut's major law enforcement agency had gone so wrong. The state police refused to show me the file, saying that the crime was still under investigation.

At a Jan. 22 Freedom of Information Commission hearing in Hartford, attorneys for the state gave another reason for the police secrecy: "There is no public record." There is nothing for anyone to access and nothing for the Freedom of Information Commission to decide.

During the two hours of this hearing, certain things became obvious: The state police, after pondering the request for access, had found it convenient to "erase" the file - keeping it from public scrutiny without necessarily destroying it. This was done under the state's erasure law, which protects the privacy of an exonerated person. "I don't need them to protect my privacy," was Peter Reilly's response. "I want them to find out who killed my mother."

The Gibbons file exists. It sits in a room at Troop L in Litchfield, headquarters of the Western District Major Crime Squad.

Should a police agency be allowed to remove from public view the entire case file of an unsolved crime because of the exoneration of a person wrongly convicted? If so, criminals get a free pass and crimes that might be solved will remain mysteries.

This nasty business almost surely will be argued out in Superior Court. Yet it need not be. There is already a distinguished former Superior Court judge, Arthur Spada, serving as commissioner of public safety. If he is willing to defy the uniformed hierarchy of the state police by opening the files, the whole charade could be brought to a screeching halt. There could be, at last, active cooperation between the department and the array of individuals most knowledgeable about the 1973 slaying.

The 1998 Jovin case also cries out for cooperation - or the transfer of the investigation to an agency more competent than the New Haven Police Department.

Why is all this so important? Neither Peter Reilly nor James Van de Velde, nor any innocent American, should forever be condemned to live under a cloud of suspicion.

Donald S. Connery, who lives in Kent, is the author of "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" (Putnam Pub Group, 1977), on the Peter Reilly case.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1187)2/17/2004 7:01:06 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1390
Re: 2/17/04 - Yale Daily News: Continuing attention to the Jovin investigation


Published Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Continuing attention to the Jovin investigation

To the Editor:

I would like to thank the Yale Daily News for its continued efforts to bring attention to the unsolved murder of Yale undergraduate student Suzanne Jovin ("The Unusual Suspect," YDN Magazine, 2/5), despite efforts by Yale and the NHPD to let it fade into history and secrecy.

For the record, however, I would like to correct a few errors in the article:

1) As I have stated on the record numerous times, I spent the evening of Dec. 4, 1999, watching "Friends" -- on videotape.

2) I learned at 12:07 p.m. (not "after midnight" that evening), the day after the murder of Suzanne Jovin, that Jovin was the victim of a murder. In fact, the e-mail was a message from a student forwarding a message written that morning by the dean of Ezra Stiles College to all students in her college informing them that a Yale student had been the victim of a murder. (The police have had this e-mail message since the beginning of the investigation.) Since this student knew that Jovin was one of my students, she knew I would want to learn this information.

3) The New Haven and Yale University investigation did not "eventually" lead to me. The opposite is true. Police and Yale sources first announced me as a suspect five days after the crime in December 1998 and announced me as a suspect again in January 1999 and THEN conducted an investigation that revealed absolutely nothing to link me to the crime. Subsequent to having been so publicly labeled, the police admitted that they are: a) searching for a tan or brown van seen at the crime scene at the time of the crime (March 2001); b) trying to match DNA found under Jovin's fingernails that did not match my DNA, her boyfriend's, the emergency workers who tried to save her or numerous others who have voluntarily (and not so voluntarily) given DNA samples; and that c) there are "10, no 5, no 10" suspects in the crime, according to former Chief of Police Melvin Wearing (November 2001).

4) Former WFSB-TV New Haven Bureau Chief Barbara Pinto told her roommate, WTNH-TV weekend anchor Kristen Cusato, sometime in the late spring of 1997, that I had asked during a phone call her how her "fan" was doing on a hot evening. Since she told her roommate that I had not been inside her bedroom, Pinto speculated to Cusato that I must have visited the Branford Town Library situated across the street from her home, walked up to the second floor to look into her house across the street, into the second floor of her home, and back into her back bedroom and noticed that she had a fan. (In fact, Pinto had shown me her bedroom in January 1997 when I first visited her house for a dinner date.) Cusato told this ludicrous story to friends and others at WTNH, one of whom called the police on me after seeing me give a one-sentence tribute to Jovin on WVIT the day after her murder. The naive New Haven Police in charge of the investigation did not consider the possibility that Pinto made this story up, perhaps to assuage her sense of embarrassment after I had dated her and moved on (figuratively and literally). Since the detectives had a relationship with Pinto, who used to play tennis with them to elicit information, perhaps they were predisposed to believe such a laughable story. I did no such thing. On a hot evening I asked how her fan was doing as a witty way to ask how she was coping with the heat. Pinto said nothing to me at the time of this phone call and continued to date me until I moved to California in August 1997. Yet this is the alleged 'stalking' rumor so often cited by those who work to keep Jovin's murderer free and my life destroyed. Further, Pinto told her story to her former friends of the New Haven detective bureau on Sunday, Dec. 6, 1998 (not "(b)etween the afternoon of the 7th and the evening of the 8th.") Further still, I had never considered Pinto my 'girlfriend,' and certainly never referred to her as such. In fact, I think that was the problem.

5) I was not "fired" from Yale, though I was relieved from teaching the spring term courses I was contractually obliged to teach and "reassigned" to "research," though I was hired as a lecturer. My contract was subsequently not renewed.

James Van de Velde

February 15, 2004

Copyright © 1995-2003 Yale Daily News Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1188)2/17/2004 11:32:01 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1390
Re: 2/17/04 - WTNH: Yale Co-ed Murder: Can it be solved?

Yale Co-ed Murder: Can it be solved?

New Haven-WTNH, Feb. 17, 2004 11:00 PM) _ It's been just over five years since a Yale student was found brutally stabbed to death in an upscale New Haven neighborhood. Her murder remains unsolved.

There's a new paper offering suggestions about how to solve the case.

What's incredible is these suggestions are being made by the man who to this day remains the only named suspect in the murder. James Van de Velde charges police are so convinced he's the killer that they've failed to follow leads and conduct tests on evidence that could potentially solve this case.

James Van de Velde doesn't come back to New Haven often.

After all, this is where he was thrust into the national spotlight. It's where he says his life was wrecked after being publicly named as the suspect in the murder of Suzanne Jovin.

Jovin was an attractive, Yale student found murdered in an upscale New Haven neighborhood five years ago just blocks from where Van de Velde, her thesis advisor, lived.

Van de Velde is taking the offensive, releasing a detailed paper. It is his theory on who killed Jovin, how New Haven police botched the case, and what he believes could be done to solve the murder, including the use of cutting edge DNA tests on evidence.

"I think it's important, I think it is interesting. I think it's insightful," says Chief Ortiz.

New Haven's new police Chief Francisco Ortiz is now overseeing the 1998 case. While others in the department continue to characterize Van de Velde as a prime suspect, all Ortiz will say...

"I'm not at liberty to say who is prime or in the pool or otherwise."

But he will say he's confident his detectives are looking in the right direction.

"They have a very good case right now so this isn't a simple case of a complete mystery."

But it is a high profile, unsolved murder and after five years Van de Velde wants unbiased, outside experts to get involved.

Dr. Henry Lee says,"I'm more than happy to participate and take a look."

Experts like Connecticut's renown forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee who says his offer to help was initially turned down by New Haven police.

Team 8 recently sat down with Dr. Lee and Barry Scheck, the nationally known DNA expert who represented OJ Simpson.

"I think it's always a good idea to have a fresh set of eyes and independent people look at something," says Barry Scheck.

But Lee is skeptical.

"We need some physical evidence. A good crime scene and some witnesses and a little bit of luck. With this particular case, so far we don't have any," says Dr. Lee.

They do have a partial unidentified fingerprint found on a soda bottle near Jovin's body.

We asked whether it would help to try and link it to DNA found underneath Jovin's finger nails.

"It would put someone at the crime scene certainly," says Scheck.

However, Scheck says even the latest DNA technology may not provide answers.

"This is evidence you can destroy. If it turns out in two years there's a much better chance at getting a result than there is today, isn't it in the interest of everyone concerned to get a result than get no result," says Scheck.

Meanwhile, Van de Velde continues to campaign for his innocence.

Van de Velde talked to us at great length and answered our questions but at the insistence of his attorney he would not do an on camera interview.

Watch the story with Team 8 Investigator Alan Cohn:

Content © Copyright 2000 - 2004 WorldNow, WTNH, and Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1081)2/25/2004 12:21:03 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1390
Re: 5/20/02 - [Zantop Murders] The Dartmouth: State offers look at Parker transcripts

Monday, May 20, 2002
State offers look at Parker transcripts
By Kaitlin Bell, The Dartmouth Staff

Tripp Blum/The Dartmouth Senior Staff
James Parker leaves the Grafton County Courthouse in April.

Transcripts of prosecutors' interviews with James Parker released Friday offered disturbing insight into the events and motives leading up to the brutal murders of Dartmouth professors Half and Susanne Zantop in January 2001.

In the haunting 167-page report -- which consists of over fifteen hours of Parker's transcribed testimony -- Parker casually described the grisly details of the murders, the social isolation he and Robert Tulloch imposed on themselves, the teenagers peculiar moral philosophy and sense of intellectual superiority.

While the specific motive behind the murders was stealing the Zantops' ATM cards to fund an escape to Australia, Parker's comments indicated that he and Tulloch held a deep-seated dissatisfaction with their lives in their hometown of Chelsea, Vt. -- a dissatisfaction that contrasted sharply with their grand ambitions.

"We're both very adventurous," he said. "We kind of saw life differently than everybody else and we wanted more out of life than, you know, going to college and blah blah blah."

Parker, now 17, described how he and Tulloch dreamed of living a "primitive existence" on a remote island and of searching Egyptian myths for the secret to immortality.

"We just kind of wanted to be on our own," he said.

In Australia, they hoped to pursue "a life of crime," possibly training themselves to be assassins.

The murders were the culmination of two years of intricate pranks and petty crimes through which the two teenagers distanced themselves from their peers and added excitement to everyday life in Chelsea.

"Ever since we became best friends we were doing all this adventurous stuff and we considered ourselves better than everybody else," Parker said. "We thought basically that we were smarter than everybody else … people didn't see things the way that we did."

In intense philosophical conversations, the teens discussed the morality of killing and pondered the possibility of the world being like a giant computer game world with "cheat codes" that provided shortcuts to success.

They considered stealing cars, robbing banks and hijacking boats, but finally decided on a localized crime scheme that would involve stealing ATM cards and murdering any witnesses, even children.

But Parker said his moral code sometimes diverged from that of Tulloch. He disapproved of Tulloch hitting his dog "just because it was a stupid dog," and went along with Tulloch's murder schemes only because he "was doing it for money."

"I thought maybe we do need to get used to this, but we're not going to practice on animals or anything like that," he said, noting that Tulloch's single-minded focus on the Australia plot sometimes became oppressive.

Yet Parker's own reaction to the murder was cool. He said the scheme had failed because the boys only collected $340 from Half Zantop's wallet, and that, even after stabbing Suzanne, he felt "nothing emotional."

"I think it turned into instincts, so I guess you could call it business, but that's kind of a bad word, but just like, you know, it's time to do this," he said.

The calm tone apparent in this testimony contrasts markedly with Parker's behavior at his sentencing hearing several months later, where he apologized to the Zantops' family in a quavering voice, tears streaming down his face.

But Parker acknowledged even during his statement to prosecutors that he and Tulloch had held unrealistic hopes about their prospects for escape.

"We were very naïve about everything," he said, "About like the legal system and we didn't talk about getting caught at all. We just didn't think we were gonna get caught because we thought we could figure out a way not to get caught."

Last November, prosecutors allowed Parker to plead guilty to a reduced charge of accomplice to second-degree murder in the death of Susanne Zantop in exchange for his testimony.

Tulloch, now 19, last month dropped his insanity defense and pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. The teenagers were both sentenced on April 4, Tulloch to life in prison without parole and Parker to a term of 25 years to life.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright (C) 1993 - 2003 by The Dartmouth, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1190)3/13/2004 6:23:10 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1390
Re: 3/15/04 - Newsweek: A Merit Badge in Murder?

Note: The following is presented as another example of a brutal random killing. The murder took place in August of 2003. The murderer, for whatever reason, bragged to 30 classmates he had done it. Not a single one went to the police. It is and will remain my contention that there are plenty of people who know who killed Suzanne Jovin. The problem is that, as I've pointed out over and over, if you really want to solve a random murder you can't wait for people with important information to come to you-- you have to seek them out by any means necessary.

- Jeff


A Merit Badge in Murder?

A small Wisconsin town is rocked by the arrest of a star student athlete. Cops say the Eagle Scout killed for kicks
Glen Kopitske's home in Wolf River, Wisc. where he was found murdered last August
By Dirk Johnson

NewsweekMarch 15 issue - Big as a fridge and quick as a cat, Gary Hirte exploded off the defensive line, smacking a running back to kingdom come. Under the Friday-night lights, roars of approval swept from the bleachers at Weyauwega-Freemont High School, in a little Wisconsin town. Affectionately known as "The Big Hirte" for his 6-foot-3, 280-pound frame, this affable, curly-haired blond was no dumb jock. Besides being an all-conference football player for the Indians, Hirte was ranked second in the senior class. He was an Eagle Scout and a member of the prom court. In his spare time, he worked at a local ice-cream shop. But police say this hometown golden boy harbored a terrible secret.

The football team's winning season wasn't the only big news in north-central Wisconsin last fall. An unsolved murder in nearby Wolf River Township had stymied police. Glenn Kopitske, 37, an eccentric loner, was found dead in his living room by his mother last August—naked, face down, a gunshot wound in the back of his head, two stab wounds in his back, another in his heart. After five months, the case had grown cold. Then, in January, a call came to police from Olivia Thoma, a college girl in Green Bay. Thoma said she had met Hirte at a county fair, and he had bragged to her about killing Kopitske. Police taped a phone call between Thoma and Hirte in which, they say, Hirte talked casually about murdering Kopitske, saying he had done it "just to see if I could get away with it."

The next day Hirte was summoned to the principal's office, where police slapped cuffs on the boy, then 17, and led him away. Inside Hirte's modest home on Ann Street, police found what they believe were the murder weapons: a 12-guage shotgun and an eight-inch knife. In his bedroom were Kopitske's car keys—police believe the boy was keeping them as a "trophy." Hirte's attorney, Gerald Boyle, a prominent Milwaukee lawyer who once defended Jeffrey Dahmer, denies Hirte is guilty of the killing.

AP (left); Sharon Cekada / The Post-Crescent-AP
Murder victim Glen Kopitske (left) and his suspected killer, Gary Hirte (right)

Hirte's arrest shocked Weyauwega, a town of 1,800 with its quaint Main Street straight out of a Frank Capra movie. "This community saw him as the perfect kid," says Staci Larong, a 37-year-old nurse, sipping coffee at the counter of a cafe. Hirte was the first Weyauwega boy in 20 years to make the Boy Scouts' highest rank. Mayor Howard Quimby was Hirte's adviser for some of his merit badges. "He's the kind of kid who's so smart and determined that he can do anything," says Quimby.

The case conjures chilling echoes of the 80-year-old saga of Leopold and Loeb—two brainy University of Chicago students who killed a boy in a quest to commit the perfect murder. They didn't get away with it. Neither will Hirte, say prosecutors, who believe they have a tight case. Besides Thoma, they say Hirte boasted of the killing to some 30 students at his small high school (enrollment: 396). But the kids said nothing until questioned by police. "That's the big question. Why did they keep quiet?" asks Ken Hardwicke, editor of the Chronicle, the local newspaper. "In a small town, people protect their own."

Hirte is being held in Winnebago County Jail on $400,000 bond. At his arraign-ment in Oshkosh last month, Hirte, now 18, seemed the picture of easy confidence. (Wisconsin has no death penalty. First-degree murder brings automatic life imprisonment.) He smiled. He chuckled. When his lawyer motioned for his ear, Hirte responded lightheartedly: "What's up?" About 30 students were in court. "He's a friend, a good guy," says one. Deputy prosecutor John Jorgensen has a different view of the accused: "He's cocky."

Everybody knew Gary Hirte was going places—but nobody figured it would be a jail cell. Just before his arrest, Hirte was awarded a scholarship to St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He told friends he wanted to pursue a career that fascinated him: criminal justice.

© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1189)3/30/2004 9:20:19 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
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Re: 3/30/04 - NH Register: Federal judge dismisses Van de Velde lawsuit try

Federal judge dismisses Van de Velde lawsuit try

Michelle Tuccitto , Register Staff 03/30/2004

NEW HAVEN — A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit filed by James Van de Velde against New Haven police and Yale University officials after they named him as a suspect in the murder of Suzanne Jovin.

Jovin, who had been a Yale senior, was stabbed to death in the city’s East Rock neighborhood Dec. 4, 1998. Van de Velde had been Jovin’s thesis adviser at Yale.

No one has ever been charged in the case.

U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny this month granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss the lawsuit, which had claimed constitutional rights violations.

New Haven lawyer David T. Grudberg, who represents Van de Velde, said Monday he plans to ask the judge to reconsider his decision. If Chatigny refuses, Grudberg plans to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. If unsuccessful with both strategies, he may also refile a lawsuit in Superior Court solely on state claims, he said.

"We are extremely disappointed with the court’s decision and still believe strongly in the case," Grudberg said. "The treatment that James Van de Velde received in the course of this investigation has had a devastating impact on his life and caused irreparable damage to him.

"We had hoped and still hope this lawsuit would be one way to hold accountable some of the people who helped inflict that damage on him, and help make him whole for the damages he suffered," Grudberg added.

In December 1998, the defendants disclosed to the media that a male Yale teacher was the "lead suspect" in the murder, according to the decision.

Yale cancelled Van de Velde’s spring courses and informed him he would not be permitted to serve as a senior essay adviser or tutor.

Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy, one of the named defendants, subsequently issued a statement to the media that Van de Velde was "in a pool of suspects" and police would be questioning people about him on campus. New Haven police then confirmed Van de Velde was a suspect, the decision shows.

Van de Velde, who now lives in the Washington, D.C., area, maintains his innocence.

The lawsuit claimed that the defendants violated Van de Velde’s 14th Amendment right to equal treatment by releasing only his name to the public, not the names of other potential suspects.

"The claim against the Yale defendants is insufficient because there is no allegation that any of them ever knew the names of any other suspects in the Jovin case," Chatigny wrote. "The claim against the New Haven defendants is insufficient because there is no allegation that they were ever asked to confirm the identity of any other suspect."

The lawsuit further alleged the defendants, by naming Van de Velde as a suspect, violated his 14th Amendment right to confidentiality in personal matters and due process, and his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure, referring to the seizure of his good name without probable cause. Chatigny dismissed all of these claims.

The lawsuit additionally claimed violation of state law, or invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Chatigny declined to exercise jurisdiction over the state law claims. Van de Velde may still pursue them in the state court system.

City Corporation Counsel Thomas Ude said city officials are pleased with the judge’s decision and "look forward to moving on."

Conroy said the university believes the judge made the proper decision on the federal claims.

"If a state claim is pursued, the university is confident it would prevail," Conroy said.

Named in the lawsuit were retired New Haven Police Chief Melvin H. Wearing, retired police personnel Brian Sullivan, Thomas Trocchio and Edward Kendall, and the late Detective Anthony DiLullo. Besides Conroy, Yale defendants included President Richard C. Levin, Secretary Linda Koch Lorimer, Yale College Dean Richard H. Brodhead, and Yale Police Chief James Perrotti.

Earlier this year, Van de Velde won an $80,000 settlement against Quinnipiac University. Van de Velde had sued Quinnipiac, claiming the school wrongfully dismissed him from a broadcast journalism graduate program because of news reports linking him to the Jovin slaying. That lawsuit further claimed Quinnipiac spread defamatory statements about him to the media to explain his dismissal.

Michelle Tuccitto can be reached at, or at 789-5615.

©New Haven Register 2004

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