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   PastimesMurder Mystery: Who Killed Yale Student Suzanne Jovin?

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1236)12/10/2007 11:18:55 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
Re: 12/10/07 - National Review Blog Row: Richard Brodhead's second chance?

The Corner

Monday, December 10, 2007

Richard Brodhead's second chance? [Michael Rubin]

Years before the Duke lacrosse case, while still dean of Yale College, Richard Brodhead punished Yale lecturer James Van de Velde for a crime, it turns out, he could not have committed (the DNA evidence exonerated him). Absent the hard work of a figure like KC Johnson, Brodhead never bothered to apologize to a man whose career he ruined for the sake of short-term public relations. Now it seems an independent commission will start from scratch its investigation of the Jovin murder at Yale. As the Yale case proceeds, it will be interesting to see whether Brodhead has learned any lessons from his Duke fiasco. He might begin with a formal, public apology to James Van de Velde.

12/10 08:17 AM

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1237)12/12/2007 2:07:43 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
Re: 12/12/07 - Yale Daily News: Nine years later, murder of Yale senior still unsolved; As Jovin Investigation Team debuts, interviews suggest holes in original police inquiry

Nine years later, murder of Yale senior still unsolved
As Jovin Investigation Team debuts, interviews suggest holes in original police inquiry
Rachel Boyd
Staff Reporter

Published Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Less than six hours before she was killed, Suzanne Jovin, a 21-year-old Yale student, turned in a draft of her senior essay.

It was Dec. 4, 1998, just a week before the final copy was due. In 21 single-spaced pages on “Osama bin Laden and the Terrorist Threat to U.S. Security,” she examined the terrorist’s already prominent organization. Her paper was virtually complete, except for the conclusion. In neat handwriting on the margins of page 20, she wrote about the final paragraphs: “I’m saving the conclusion for last.”

“She had a few hours more work to go,” says James Van de Velde ’82, her senior essay adviser and the instructor of her political science seminar, “Strategy and Policy in the Conduct of War.”

In the unfinished paragraphs, which were provided to the News by Van de Velde, she ended her paper with a warning to foreign-policy makers: “To ultimately defeat bin Laden in his ‘holy war’ against the United States and the non-Muslims, we must be prepared to ‘stand some more heat.’ Certainly, there is nothing to suggest that this ‘holy war’ will turn cold anytime soon.”

But Jovin would never know how true her words were. On that December night, almost three years before Sept. 11, she was stabbed to death just two miles from the Yale campus. And while al Qaeda’s holy war has certainly not turned cold since 1998, it seems to Van de Velde that Jovin’s unsolved murder investigation did — at least until two weeks ago.

Since September 2006, when Jovin’s case was handed over to Connecticut’s Cold Case Unit, details about the investigation were almost impossible to come by. The Unit refused to release any information about the status of their work, and its Web site, which features photographs and details of nine other unsolved murder cases dating back to 1982, had no mention of Jovin.

As the ninth anniversary of Jovin’s death approached, Van de Velde began to say repeatedly that he wanted that to change — whether out of self-interest or not is anybody’s guess — calling publicly on the Cold Case Unit to renew its efforts. Van de Velde’s interest, after all, extends beyond that of a teacher concerned about his student.

The former Saybrook College dean is also the only person ever named as a suspect in the murder.

His wish came true, or so it seems. At a Nov. 30 press conference outside the New Haven Superior Court, State’s Attorney’s Office officials unveiled a new Jovin Investigation Team charged with solving the Yale senior’s murder by bringing fresh eyes to a crime that may have needed a more thorough effort from the start, interviews with Jovin’s friends, police officers and local reporters at the time have revealed. And just yesterday, after more than a year of judicial silence, a federal judge resurrected Van de Velde’s claims against Yale and the New Haven Police Department.

But whether the new team is anything more than a strategic response to Van de Velde’s recent criticism — and whether the investigators will bring real closure to the nine-year-old mystery — remains uncertain.

The stabbing

For early December, the Friday of the murder was unusually warm.

Jovin, an international studies and political science double major who grew up as the daughter of scientists in Goettingen, Germany, spent the early evening at New Haven’s Trinity Lutheran Church at a holiday pizza party with Best Buddies, an organization that matches students with mentally disabled adults. She had been involved with Best Buddies since her freshman year and was director of Yale’s chapter.

Dawn DeFeo, who was then the coordinator of the supervised living arrangements program at Marrakech, Inc., a not-for-profit provider of residential, educational and career services for mentally challenged adults, says she met with Jovin weekly to help organize Best Buddies activities. DeFeo was unable to attend the Dec. 4 party, she says, because she was working part-time in order to spend time with her young children. DeFeo says she tried, without much success, to recruit other people from Marrakech to help Jovin coordinate Best Buddies activities.

“It was really hard for Suzanne because I would put other people in charge, and they weren’t really that responsive,” she says. Because no one from Marrakech had volunteered to bring the buddies home after the party, Jovin had borrowed a University station wagon so she could drive some of them back herself, DeFeo recalls.

Around 9:25 p.m., a classmate, Peter Stein ’99, saw Jovin on Old Campus, he told newspapers soon after the crime. He said Jovin told him that she was returning the keys to the car and was planning to return to her apartment on Park Street.

“She did not mention plans to go anywhere or do anything else afterward,” Stein told the News in April 1999. “She just said that she was very, very tired and that she was looking forward to getting a lot of sleep.”

Stein declined to comment for this article, saying he could no longer remember details from the night of the crime.

Less than 20 minutes after Stein saw her, Jovin had been attacked.

At 9:58 p.m., police found her bleeding on the corner of Edgehill Avenue and East Rock Road, about 2 miles from Old Campus, according to a 1998 NHPD press release. The murder had occurred at about 9:45, according to the Department’s description of the crime posted online in 2001. Jovin had been stabbed multiple times in the head, neck and back.

Some witnesses report having heard a scream and an argument between a man and woman; others say they saw a tan or brown van in the street next to where Jovin’s body was later discovered, according to the description.

Jovin’s friend DeFeo says she still does not think it was plausible that Jovin walked from Old Campus to the crime scene in just 20 minutes. She said she doubts it was a random attack.

“I find it hard to believe that she would have just gotten into a vehicle with somebody who she didn’t know; it seemed it would have been more somebody who she knew,” DeFeo says. “But you hear so much, and it’s been such a long time.”

The ‘pool’ of suspects

Davenport Dining Hall Manager Jim Moule had planned an intense Saturday of preparing for the college’s annual holiday dinner. The dining hall and common room would be decked out with lights, white linens, ice sculptures, train sets and dozens of pies and roasts by the night of Dec. 5.

But the usual cheer at the dinner was lost. Jovin, after all, had been a favorite student worker for two years. “We were in a state of shock all day,” recalls head pantry worker Pat McGloin. “We were all just walking around like zombies.”

“It was very difficult to grieve when you had TV cameras aimed at the front and back gates of the college,” Davenport College Master’s Senior Administrative Assistant Barbara Munck says. “It was to me an imposition of our home.”

If the Yale community was looking for answers, so were the police. And officials thought they might have found one in Jovin’s adviser, Van de Velde.

On the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 7, New Haven police officers interviewed him briefly in his Yale office, for “10, 15 minutes tops,” according to Van de Velde. On Dec. 8, he says, police interrogated him for several hours at NHPD headquarters, asking him, among other things, whether he had killed Jovin.

Then it all went public.

The next morning, The New Haven Register reported that a Yale “educator” was the lead suspect in the investigation, citing “city and university sources close to the case.” The bold banner headline, “Yale teacher grilled in killing,” was one-and-a-half inches high. The Register claimed in the sub-heading that the “prime suspect lives near where slain student was found, sources say.”

The article did not name Van de Velde outright, but at that point, he had effectively been identified to the public, Van de Velde says. He lived only .6 miles from the scene of the crime, at 305 Ronan St., and since he was working as a lecturer in the political science department, he was not a professor — a title the Register article had been careful to avoid.

On Jan. 10, 1999, then-Dean of Yale College Richard Brodhead called Van de Velde into his office, telling him that his spring term courses would be canceled and that he could not advise any senior essays or directed readings, Van de Velde says. On Jan. 11, Yale Public Affairs Director Tom Conroy issued a statement announcing that Van de Velde was in a “pool of suspects,” although the University presumed him to be innocent.

“Yale relieved Van de Velde of his spring term teaching after the New Haven police identified him as in the pool of suspects for the Jovin murder,” Brodhead wrote in an e-mail to the News last month. “The decision involved no presumption of his guilt by myself or the [U]niversity. It followed from the recognition that it would be inappropriate for his classes to take place under these circumstances. He was not ‘fired,’ but put on paid leave for the remainder of his appointment.”

Despite this declared presumption of innocence, students say the University’s actions contributed to their suspicion of the faculty member.

“When Yale canceled his classes, I think most people on campus assumed that we were all just waiting for the other shoe to drop, that the next thing you were going to read about in the paper was that Van de Velde was arrested and charged with the murder,” the former News reporter Golson says. “I think we assumed that Yale wouldn’t have done what it had done unless it was acting maybe on more information than was publicly available.”

Golson says that since he does not know what University administrators knew at the time, he does not know whether the University made the right call.

Van de Velde was never charged, and no evidence has ever been presented to the public to link him to the crime. Yet when he asked former Political Science Department chair Ian Shapiro to re-hire him after his one-year term expired, Van de Velde says, Shapiro refused. Shapiro did not respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment on why Van de Velde was not re-hired. His secretary said he was out of the country.

_____ until proven guilty

In his academic and professional life, Van de Velde often found himself coming back to Connecticut.

He grew up in Orange, a middle-class suburb just miles from Yale. After studying political science at Yale and graduating with honors in 1982, he earned a Ph.D. from Tufts University in 1988. He went on to serve as a diplomat with the Department of State, later joining the U.S. Naval Intelligence Reserves and serving in several positions, from Sarajevo to Singapore.

But Van de Velde says his true love was teaching. After serving as a lecturer in the Political Science Department and Saybrook College dean, Van de Velde spent a year working in an administrative position at Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. In 1998, he returned to Yale because, he says, he missed teaching college students, “didn’t particularly like being an administrator of a research program,” and did not get along with a Stanford faculty member.

After his one-year appointment at the University, he says he applied for a “tenure-track” position within the department. His competition, he says, was “All But Dissertation” graduate students and those with newly minted Ph.Ds. “I feel that it was an outrage that I was not given the open tenure-track position,” he says. “I am sure the Jovin matter had a lot to do with my not landing [it].”

After the Jovin case, no university — or virtually any other organization — would touch him, he says.

“For about a year, I couldn’t get a job anywhere,” Van de Velde asserts. “I applied to over 100 positions and couldn’t get an interview.”

Eventually, his prospects began to improve. The Navy gave him a series of 30- and 90-day assignments in Washington, at one point assisting the Pentagon as a “Y2K watch officer.” In 2003, the Department of Defense sent him to Cuba twice, where he says he “interviewed detainees” at Guantanamo Bay. He says he then held a “top secret/codeword security clearance” with the Department of Defense.

Van de Velde now resides with his wife and their 3-year-old son in a small town outside of Washington, D.C., where he works on government contracts for Booz Allen Hamilton, a private consulting firm. He says he feels “extraordinarily lucky for many reasons.” But he cannot leave the Jovin case behind, because, he says, it will not leave him.

“It damaged my professional life; it damaged my personal life,” he says. “I lost more or less all my professional acquaintances.”

Demonstrating how damaging the initial headlines were to Van de Velde’s reputation, one Yale staff member who claims to have known Jovin says that even though Van de Velde’s DNA does not match that found under Jovin’s nails, he could still have been involved in the crime. “I don’t know if he did it or not, but I’m sure he was capable,” the staff member says, offering no proof and insisting on remaining anonymous. In an e-mail to the News, Van de Velde said the staff member’s statement is “trash.”

“Very few people in history have ever had their lives so totally inspected and prodded through more than Van de Velde,” says Donald Connery, an author and independent journalist who over the past 60 years has worked with NBC, Time and Life magazines and United Press International. “And the authorities in this state — the New Haven State’s Attorney General, the police, the Chief State’s Attorney’s office — no one has the guts or the morality to simply say that this man was falsely identified and is in no way a suspect.” In the 1970s, Connery reported on Connecticut teenager Peter Reilly, who was wrongly accused and convicted of his mother’s murder.

In 2001, Van de Velde began to come back onto the media’s radar. He filed defamation lawsuits against Quinnipiac University — where he had been dismissed from a degree program in broadcast journalism — and the Hartford Courant. The Courant lawsuit is pending, and the Quinnipiac lawsuit was settled out of court in 2004 for a “pretty generous” $80,000, according to Van de Velde. Lynn Bushnell, Quinnipiac’s vice president for public affairs, and John Morgan, Quinnipiac’s associate vice president for public relations, were both named in the lawsuit. Both declined to confirm the amount of the settlement or to comment on the lawsuit.

But the more attention-grabbing defamation lawsuit is the one in which Van de Velde’s state claims were reopened yesterday. Van de Velde filed the lawsuit against the NHPD in 2001 and added Yale officials to the lawsuit in 2003. He claimed that the University and the police leaked not only the fact that a “male Yale teacher” was the lead suspect, but also that Van de Velde himself was the suspect.

University President Richard Levin told the News last month that neither he nor any other Yale officials acted as a source for the Register article. And when asked whether Van de Velde is — or ever was — a suspect, New Haven Chief State’s Attorney Michael Dearington said: “I wouldn’t get within 5,000 miles of that question. I have never commented on that, and hopefully no one in my office has ever commented on that.”

Cold case or no case?

In August 2007, 11 months after Jovin’s case was turned over to Connecticut’s Cold Case Unit, Van de Velde sent a letter to Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, who oversees the unit. He urged Kane to post Jovin’s case on the Cold Case Web site and asked him to examine 12 “avenues to investigate in the Suzanne Jovin cold case homicide.”

“As both a citizen wrongly accused by the police and an analyst in the national intelligence community, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the case and how it might be solved,” Van de Velde wrote in the letter. “As you may know from numerous press accounts, I have been, since the beginning of the case, the most vocal advocate for a vigorous and truly professional police effort to solve the crime.”

Among Van de Velde’s suggestions were examining the DNA of a set of fingerprints on a Fresca soda bottle found at the crime scene; looking into other murders committed by men driving vans, as may have been the case in Jovin’s murder; examining a knife tip found in Jovin’s head to determine a manufacturer and type of knife; comparing DNA found under her fingernails to DNA in the Connecticut and Combined DNA Index System; conducting a sweat print analysis on her clothing; performing a microscopic forensic analysis to determine the presence of dirt, tire and other molecules on Jovin’s clothing; and looking into the Best Buddies program.

Connery, the criminal law writer, sent a similar letter to Kane in February.

In an interview in mid-November, Kane said he received both letters but that he chose not to respond. He declined to say why, and also declined to comment on whether he had taken any of their suggestions. Kane says he does not believe all cold cases are listed on the Cold Case Unit Web site. He declined to say why Jovin’s is not.

Dearington, who was overseeing the investigation in New Haven, said in mid-November that he had been forwarded Van de Velde’s and Connery’s letters, but that he had no further comment. “I do know that the case is being actively investigated by extremely experienced and qualified investigators,” he said. He declined to say how many people are working on the Jovin case, although he suggested that he would be more forthcoming in the future. “If you caught me on a sunny day, maybe I’d say more,” he said Nov. 15. “I think, though, that as the ninth anniversary [of Jovin’s murder on Dec. 4] approaches, we may provide more information about what’s going on.”

A ‘brand new’ approach

In late November, Dearington’s words rang true. At the Nov. 30 press conference, Assistant State’s Attorney James Clark announced the formation of a four-person team of retired Connecticut detectives to look into the crime independently. Each will earn just $1 a year for his work. The team will re-evaluate all previously gathered information and will also seek out new leads, he said.

“The idea is to approach the case as if it were brand new,” Clark said. “Therefore, no person is a suspect in the crime, and everyone is a suspect in the crime.”

Also present at the press conference was Ellen Jovin, the sister of Suzanne Jovin. Her family has long remained silent about the case – her parents declined to comment for this article and her other sister, Rebecca Jovin, did not return calls for comment. At the November press conference, Ellen Jovin spoke briefly, asking people to contact the new squad if they have any information.

“Not knowing what happened to Suzanne is devastating for our family,” she said. “Please do not let one more day pass in silence.”

In an interview five days after the team was announced, John Mannion, a retired state police officer who is heading up the investigative team, said he had already received information through new telephone and e-mail tip lines, but he declined to give any more detail. Since June, he said, the team has been reviewing the “expansive” case file on the murder.

Although state officials interviewed say the team has been meeting since the summer, they gave different reasons for why the squad was not announced until the end of November. Earlier in the month, both the Register and News published front-page articles about Van de Velde’s unanswered letters; Van de Velde also published a letter to the editor in the News in which he called on Yale officials to clear his name and to push the Cold Case Unit to conduct tests on evidence from the crime.

State’s Attorneys Clark and Dearington said the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with Van de Velde’s recent appearances in the media and letters to the State’s Attorney’s Office. But Mannion says media pressure had in fact played a role in the announcement. “We thought it would be the appropriate time because there was some inquiries being made,” he explains, “and we wanted to tie it in with the anniversary [of Jovin’s murder] to see if we could rekindle some memories.”

But Van de Velde says he is skeptical about how much work the Jovin Investigation Team will actually accomplish, saying that they are not forensic specialists or computer forensic specialists and will likely work part time, for an unknown amount of time. Mannion confirmed that the team meets “periodically,” saying the four try to meet once a week. Although Mannion has not yet interviewed Van de Velde, he says that he has looked at Van de Velde’s 12 suggestions for the investigation. But he did not say whether any had been pursued. “It became part of the official file, and it’s something we will consider as we march down this long road,” Mannion said.

In his letter, Van de Velde also offers suggestions of specific people to contact. One is DeFeo, the Best Buddies coordinator from Marrakech. Despite the fact that Jovin’s last activity the night of her death was at the Best Buddies party, DeFeo says neither she nor anyone from her office who was at the party was ever contacted by the police.

“It was really surprising to me,” DeFeo says. And the police waited days, she says, before contacting any of the mentally disabled clients Jovin drove home Dec. 4, an exclusion DeFeo says she finds worrying. “If it was any other person who didn’t have a disability … they certainly would have pursued it a lot more than they did,” she says.

Former FBI agent Foria Younis, who now trains police departments on Arab and Muslim cultures and terrorism issues, says she is surprised that the Marrakech staff, according to DeFeo, were never contacted. “If that wasn’t done, hopefully this new team would be able to [interview them],” she says.

NHPD Chief Francisco Ortiz, who became chief in 2003 and will be leaving his post in January, declined to comment on details of the investigation and says simply “we certainly stand by our work.”

Another person Van de Velde mentions is Skip Palenik, president of Microtrace Scientific, a private laboratory that examines and identifies small particles and quantities of unknown materials. Van de Velde said in the letter that this kind of microscopic forensic test could show whether Jovin’s clothing was in contact either with the floor of a type of van police said was seen at the crime scene, or with that of some other van. Microtrace is often called into cases by cold case units, Palenik says, and has worked on high-profile cases such as the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

Palenik says Van de Velde has never contacted him and that Van de Velde’s suggestions to Kane indicate “a layperson’s general knowledge of the subject.” It is possible, although time-consuming and labor-intensive, to develop investigative leads from dust molecules, Palenik adds. But in order for the analysis to serve a purpose, he explains, the investigators usually must have something they can compare the findings to.

“The question is,” he says, “ ‘will it be useful?’ ”

Aimless violence or traceable logic?

Still, Van de Velde argues that this and other tests can and should be conducted. “Why doesn’t President Levin call for these forensic tests to be performed?” Van de Velde asked in an e-mail. “A Yale student was murdered and the investigation into her death was a travesty. Everyone on the campus knows it. There is no harm in following my forensic suggestions. There is no chance an innocent person could be implicated.”

Yale officials, Connery said, should make it known to the public that they believe Van de Velde to be innocent. “There’s hardly anything worse that could happen to you than to be accused of a crime you didn’t commit,” Connery said. “I just feel there’s a tremendous responsibility on everyone involved here not just to solve a murder but to see that a man’s reputation is restored.”

Levin declined to comment on specific tests, saying the decision to pursue those leads is up to the authorities. “But every sensible avenue should be taken to resolving the unanswered questions in this case, including reconsidering Mr. Van de Velde’s status as a suspect,” he wrote in an e-mail. He said Yale officials encouraged the police “years ago” to reconsider whether Van de Velde should continue to be regarded as a suspect.

Although the current investigators will not say which tests they are conducting or which people they are contacting, some people familiar with the crime say the case has been mishandled from the start. Eytan Halaban, a longtime associate resident fellow of Davenport College who was friends with Jovin, said he thinks police focused their efforts on identifying Van de Velde as the murderer too early.

“All the things they did in the research, like combing the ground where she was found, it was just to pin evidence on [Van de Velde],” Halaban says. “It was pathetic.”

Meanwhile, he speculates that the police may be ignoring what he thinks is one of the most likely scenarios for her death: that it was in some way linked to her senior essay on al Qaeda.

In her Dec. 4 draft, Jovin did not list any primary sources in her footnotes. And just a few weeks before her death, Halaban says that Jovin told him she was worried that she did not have enough research to give a Mellon Forum, a senior’s presentation to his or her college about a research project. “If my theory is correct and the New Haven Police would have pursued this crime and investigated what happened in New York,” Halaban argues, “9/11 would not have happened.”


Just beneath Halaban’s Davenport apartment, at the back of the college’s lower courtyard, is a memorial stone. The black slab lies between grass and flowers, near a hammock in which Davenport students often relax. Its simple inscription reads:

Suzanne N. Jovin

In Loving Memory

Jan. 26, 1977 – Dec. 4, 1998

By now, her classmates are in their early thirties, working as coaches, doctors, lawyers and writers. Jovin had just as promising a future.

Yale awarded her a posthumous degree on commencement day in 1999. She received an A- in Van de Velde’s class, and she graduated cum laude, with distinction in both her majors. At a May 23 ceremony awarding her the Roosevelt L. Thompson Prize for commitment to and capacity for public service, law professor Stanton Wheeler recounted her tutoring and mentoring activities.

“It was always absolutely clear that her driving motivation was to help people,” Wheeler says. “In death as in life, Suzanne Jovin left many lives forever changed. No student has done more to inspire others.”

Just before the final sentences of her senior essay, Jovin wrote that bin Laden’s use of terrorism “follows a self-dictated, but traceable logic, unlike the irrational acts of a fanatic or the aimless violence of a criminal delinquent.” This finding, she wrote, is reassuring, since “it suggests that bin Laden will be susceptible to the application of a judicious long-term counter-terrorist strategy.”

But as far as Van de Velde can tell, no such logic may ever have been applied to Jovin’s death, and no clear long-term strategy seems to be in the works.

Bin Laden is still on the loose. Nine years after her death, Jovin’s killer may be, too.

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1238)12/12/2007 5:17:33 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
Re: 12/12/2007 - Yale Daily News: District judge reopens Van de Velde suit; State law claims resurrected in former Saybrook dean’s lawsuit against Yale, NHPD

District judge reopens Van de Velde suit
State law claims resurrected in former Saybrook dean’s lawsuit against Yale, NHPD

Rachel Boyd
Staff Reporter
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Former Saybrook College Dean James Van de Velde’s ’82 lawsuit against the University and the New Haven Police Department opened a new chapter yesterday, when Connecticut District Court Chief Judge Robert Chatigny reopened Van de Velde’s state law claims.

Yale officials said they plan to respond to Chatigny’s ruling by refiling their motion to dismiss the state law claims.

Van de Velde, who was the only suspect ever named in the 1998 murder of Yale student Suzanne Jovin ’99, filed the 2001 lawsuit against five NHPD officials, including former New Haven Police Chief Melvin Wearing. Van de Velde claimed the officials had wrongfully invaded his constitutional right to privacy and violated his right to be free from unconstitutional seizure, his liberty and property interests and his right to equal protection. He also claimed they had violated Connecticut law.

In 2003, Van de Velde added University President Richard Levin, Secretary Linda Lorimer, then-Dean of the College Richard Brodhead, University Spokesman Tom Conroy and Yale Police Chief James Perrotti to the suit.

In the endorsement ruling issued Dec. 11, Chatigny wrote that Van de Velde’s state law claims are reopened and that all parties will meet and set a schedule for continuing with the litigation. The ruling is a response to Van de Velde’s May 2006 motion to alter Chatigny’s April 2006 judgment, in which the judge had dismissed Van de Velde’s state claims. Chatigny wrote that his ruling dismissing the federal claims is still in effect.

“We are studying the court’s ruling to determine the appropriate response,” Van de Velde’s attorney, David Grudberg, said Tuesday. “While we are gratified that the court has made clear certain parts of the case remain alive, we believe that there is a very important loose end that remains to be addressed, namely our motion to reconsider the dismissal of our federal claims. That motion has still never been ruled on according to the court’s docket.”

A member of Chatigny’s staff said he was unable to comment Tuesday.

Yale Spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said Yale plans to refile its motion to dismiss Van de Velde’s state law claims.

Yale Associate General Counsel Harold Rose said the ruling appears to be a procedural clarification on the part of Chatigny. Rose said he plans to review additional cases that might be relevant to the lawsuit before refiling the University’s motion.

“We believe we have a very strong argument on the state law claims,” Rose said. “We said nothing that was false, and we said nothing with malice.”

He added that he will argue that Yale officials acted reasonably and did not intentionally inflict emotional distress.

Lorimer and Perrotti did not respond to requests for comment.

— Bharat Ayyar contributed reporting.

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1239)12/21/2007 2:07:02 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
Re: 12/7/2007 - Nashville Post: News analysis: Is it really over?; Nashville now and then: A moment of closure?

News analysis: Is it really over?
By E. Thomas Wood and Ken Whitehouse
12-07-2007 1:32 AM

Marcia Trimble

For almost a third of a century, and for longer than many of you reading this story have been in Nashville, the unsolved rape and strangulation of 9-year-old Marcia Trimble in 1975 has been an ever-present fact of life.

As recounted in today's history column, many Nashvillians say the Trimble case changed forever the sense of security they felt in a city that previously had still felt in many ways like a small town. And the cloud it cast over the lives of several men who grew up with Marcia as a neighbor has lasted for decades. Police repeatedly floated their names as potential suspects, and to this day the authorities have said nothing to allay they suspicions they raised.

Three Nashville television stations have reported in recent days that Metro Police have found a match in DNA evidence from the scene of Trimble's murder, leading to new speculation that the case will be solved. Since last week, has been investigating a report from a well-placed source making a similar assertion.

The attorney for the childhood neighbor who was once charged with Marcia's murder says he has definite knowledge that a DNA match has been obtained. A police spokesman, while circumspect in his statements, is making comments that could be interpreted as suggesting a resolution in the case is on the horizon. But one well-informed source disputes certain elements of the TV coverage to date.

"A complete surprise"

The television stations say that advances in DNA testing have produced a match between crime-scene evidence and Jerome Sydney Barrett, a 60-year-old Memphis man with a criminal record of sexual assaults on both grown women and children. Another DNA match led to Barrett's recent arrest for the murder of a Vanderbilt student in early February 1975, three weeks before Marcia went missing on February 25, 1975. Police classified him as a "person of interest" in the Trimble case last month.

Barrett reportedly worked at the time in the neighborhood of the Trimble home, which was on Copeland Drive near the corner of Hobbs and Estes Roads. He is an African-American.

"It is a complete surprise to me that it would be an interloper, a stranger and a person of color in that neighborhood," retired Metro homicide detective Tommy Jacobs said in an interview this week. Jacobs filled out the missing-persons report the night that Marcia disappeared while delivering Girl Scout cookies near home. From the time her body was discovered 33 days later, on Easter Sunday, in a neighbor's garage, Jacobs worked the murder case until he left the force in 1996.

The police department's Trimble case file is huge, Jacobs said, and he has gone through every page of it. "And I don't think that an African-American was ever mentioned anywhere in there as a possibility," he said.

Police spokesman Don Aaron would not confirm or deny the report of a DNA match when reached on Wednesday. "At the proper point in time, there will be no doubt how this investigation has progressed over 32 years," he said. "This is, unfortunately, not the time. The police department has not publicly discussed evidentiary matters on the Trimble case in recent weeks.”

Aaron said the department's cold-case squad has the Trimble case "on the front burner" and that its detectives "were out of town working on the Trimble case as recently as Tuesday." However, he emphasized that "charges are not imminent."

But the lawyer for the only person ever charged with the crime, former Trimble neighbor Jeffrey Womack — against whom the authorities dropped all charges before his case reached the indictment stage — says the talk of a DNA match is for real.

"I've been told that by people involved in the investigation," John Hollins Sr. told "Let me tell you what: It's not a rumor. I'm sure of that."

Either way, one insider familiar with the case was scornful of a former Metro detective's televised claim that he had a hunch that Barrett was the offender over 30 years ago. Retired Sergeant Ralph Langston has told other media outlets that he suspected Barrett back in the 1970s, but that no one would listen to him.

"If that were true, why he didn’t come back five, 10, 15 years ago and tell someone his hunch?" the source asked. "I don’t understand. He should have gotten on top of Monteagle Mountain with the loudest sound system and screamed it, if he felt no one in the department was listening."

A crucible of suspicion

The arrest of someone who was a stranger to 9-year-old Marcia would mark an end to decades of law-enforcement focus on people from the victim's Green Hills neighborhood as the likely culprit or culprits.

Public and media interest in the case was intense from the beginning, as the girl's disappearance prompted a massive search involving police and volunteers throughout the city and surrounding areas. After the body was discovered in the garage of a home on Estes Road, pressure to crack the case intensified as weeks, and then months, and then years went by without an arrest.

By all accounts, police and prosecutors decided early on that the killer must have been someone who knew Marcia. Different investigators have posited different scenarios as to how many boys were involved, but there was a consensus that the fatal incident was some sort of adolescent activity that got out of hand, rather than a premeditated murder.

When authorities finally felt ready to charge someone with the crime, they made the arrest as dramatic as possible. Even though Womack had retained Hollins as counsel, officers swooped down on the West End apartment where he was living at 2:30 on the morning of August 28, 1979 — Womack's 20th birthday.

Hollins said the police were well aware that he represented Womack, who had been interviewed several times already and shadowed by detectives and undercover cops for years. "They went out and tried to hot-box him and get a confession out of him," the lawyer claimed. "The public wanted an arrest, and that's what they gave them."

Womack passed polygraph tests administered both by a technician Hollins hired and by Metro Police Capt. Noble Brymer, whose proficiency was renowned, according to Hollins. The latter test, the attorney said, ended with the police examiner telling him: "John, that boy is telling the truth."

A year after Womack's arrest, all charges against him were dropped. Prosecutors were unable even to muster enough evidence for an indictment, despite the old proverb about how a prosecutor can persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if he sets his mind to it.

Under public criticism for failing to bring the killer to justice, police and prosecutors sent clear signals that they still believed Womack was guilty, even though their initial effort to nail him had foundered. They also suggested in public statements that Womack might not have acted alone, and that a dark conspiracy was afoot involving other boys from the neighborhood who either knew about or participated in the rape and murder.

Scores of young men were interviewed as the investigation continued, many in a manner they found routine but some in ways they found disturbingly accusatory. At least four names of neighboring boys made it into press accounts. All four surnames turn up today on Google searches in combination with the name Marcia Trimble.

Besides Womack, the neighbor subjected to the most public attention and police pressure was March Egerton, son of author John Egerton. The Egertons lived immediately across the street from the Trimbles on Copeland. At the time of the disappearance March was 10, a year older than Marcia.

Police interviewed March multiple times in the years after the killing, administering a polygraph at one point. In 1979 a dispute arose between his parents and investigators. The police wanted to have him examined by a psychiatrist, possibly under hypnosis, to determine whether he had suppressed knowledge about the crime. John Egerton resisted, saying he did not want the teen put through further interrogation and that the authorities had previously told him there would be no more questioning.

The DA's office sent Egerton a letter in August 1979, soon after Womack's arrest, demanding that March be made available for an interview. Two detectives delivered the letter in a squad car. The controversy became public when the letter was leaked to local news outlets, and Egerton fumed in an interview with The Tennessean.

"It is a frightening thing for me to see this city's investigative authorities act in such a manner toward law-abiding citizens," Egerton said. He asserted that some of those pursuing the case "will go to any lengths to get a conviction in this case, even if innocent people — adults and children — are harmed in the process."

"This miserable saga"

More than a decade later, history repeated itself for both the Egertons and Womack. On August 28, 1990 — again, on his birthday — Womack was working in a Nashville Burger King when police descended on the location with guns drawn, as Hollins recalls. They wanted a DNA sample, and this was how they asked. Hollins hurried to the scene and escorted Womack to General Hospital, where he provided the samples.

Around the same time, investigators said they wanted to re-interrogate and take DNA samples from March Egerton. John Egerton, in a statement issued in September 1990, explained what happened next:

In light of the long history of this mishandled case and the hostile treatment we had received from the police, I responded through our attorney that we would appear for questioning only under certain specific ground rules and conditions. The police detective who heard this response replied that they did not grant conditions and he cut off the conversation.

On Monday night, Sept. 17,at 9:20 p.m., one minute after I answered a phony person-to-person call for March Egerton, several carloads of uniformed and plainclothes Metro police officers sped into our driveway, surrounded our house and, with hands on their weapons, closed in on us....
The warrant served on March contained a summary of information concerning the crime that was intended to say why the police were justified in taking this extreme action. This so-called statement of probable cause is an error-filled mish-mash of unsupported assertions and unattributed claims that falsely insinuates that March has withheld evidence in this case.

March left peacefully with the officers and was taken to General to give his DNA samples.

In May 1991, the authorities asked March to come in for yet another interview. He agreed, but this time he issued his own statement, excoriating the authorities:

I have been repeatedly prodded and cajoled by these people to "remember" things that never happened and to point fingers at people of whom I have no knowledge.... The FBI and the District Attorney have repeatedly apologized to me for the way I have been treated by the police department, using such terms as "wronged" and "badly mishandled...."

I have experienced first hand their tactics of intimidation and have been privy to their inability to reason as well as their reliance on innuendo and at times outright lying in their efforts at detection.... The police, along with the FBI, seem to fall hopelessly in love with one halfbaked theory after another, demonstrating that in the absence of conscience one need only repeat something enough times before they begin to believe it themselves. A number of the parties involved in this investigation are more interested in making themselves look good than in seeing that justice is served....

Despite how I may have been portrayed, I want as much as anyone for this matter to be resolved, so that the Trimble family, and everyone else whose lives have been wounded by this tragedy, may once and for all put this miserable saga behind them.

March Egerton is now a real estate developer in East Nashville. John Egerton told that his family has decided not to comment further on the case in public.

Womack, now 48, has consistently refused to speak publicly about the Trimble case. Hollins would not say what he does for a living. The attorney and his firm have continued to represent him without payment ever since an initial fee of $10,000, raised by a church for Womack, ran out. Hollins estimates that he has put more than $100,000 worth of billable time into serving as counsel to Womack over the years.

Hollins' former law partner, Ed Yarbrough, also represented Womack until his recent appointment as U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee.

"A good question"

Neither Don Aaron nor Metro District Attorney General Torry Johnson would comment on the effect that the Trimble investigation may have had on the men who have been subjected to police scrutiny over the years. But former detective Tommy Jacobs, who is now vice mayor of the city of Oak Hill, said this week that he and his colleagues were simply doing their best to solve the murder mystery.

"I sympathize with any of the people that we took a hard look at back then who were not involved," Jacobs said, "but that's basically the name of the investigative game. You look at people who are handy, who are close by."

Jacobs then dropped an inadvertent bombshell.

As recently two weeks ago, someone posting to a Tennessean online forum claimed to have discussed the case with "one of the lead detectives" and asserted: "From the details that I have been told and have been privy to, I’d bet the house it was Womack" who murdered Marcia Trimble.

More substantively, in 2001, Nashville Scene staff writer Matt Pulle wrote a pair of cover stories that included interviews with Jacobs and others who had worked the Trimble case. The articles, available at this link and this link, constitute the most comprehensive single narrative of the Trimble case yet published. Pulle noted that Jacobs and two other detectives each asserted that "Womack remains a suspect." Jacobs is quoted as saying of Womack: "I cannot eliminate him. He's the most consistent suspect we have."

The Scene story asserted that the DNA-gathering efforts of the early 1990s had "only eliminated a few possible suspects" because the DNA evidence was so degraded. "More often than not, the findings were too vague to be useful," the weekly reported. Some 70 samples had been taken by 1996, and though more were taken in the years that followed, all of the men whose names had been floated in the 1970s and '80s were covered in the initial six years.

To the notion that the tests were inconclusive, attorney Hollins replied: "Bullshit!" He said he learned definitively, years afterward, that the results excluded Womack. "I think they excluded him right after he gave them the samples," Hollins said. "They just never have admitted that."

Now has confirmed that the DNA tests of the early 1990s did, in fact, exclude Womack, Egerton and the other former neighborhood residents as potential sources of the evidence found on and around Marcia's body. Tommy Jacobs provided that confirmation.

When we asked Jacobs about the results of the testing, the following exchange ensued:

NP: By the time you left the force in '96, had DNA pretty much excluded all the people who had been under investigation?

TJ: Pretty much, yeah.

NP: Had they been told they were excluded?

TJ: I don't know. I don't know that we ever told anybody they were excluded. I never told anybody they had been excluded. I guess they would have figured that once we took their blood and compared it, if we didn't come knocking on their door with the handcuffs, they were excluded.

NP: Was there any consideration given to making public that people like Womack and Egerton were exonerated, given that it had been made public that they were suspects?

TJ: That's a good question, and I don't have a good answer for you. I can tell you this: Nobody that I know about at the police department went after anybody to try and ruin their reputation....

I'm sure some people suffered some degree of embarrassment, but that's just part of our justice system. We can't take our time stumbling over ourselves apologizing to people whose names might come up in an investigation.

Note: Please see accompanying column for disclosure of co-author E. Thomas Wood's ties to individuals mentioned in this story.

© 2007


Nashville now and then: A moment of closure?
By E. Thomas Wood

The rape and murder of Marcia Trimble, who lived on quiet Copeland Drive in Green Hills, has been the most talked-about unsolved crime in Nashville history.12-07-2007 1:24 AM —

This weekly history column is often about events that happened and people who flourished long ago. Today, it is about a history that I share with many of you who are reading.

My connections to the Marcia Trimble murder case are tenuous, like many of yours: I am slightly older than Marcia and never met her. But those links are substantial enough that I feel required to preface this piece, and make known to readers of its companion piece, the ways that the Trimble saga intersects with my personal history.

Both Marcia's father and the owner of the home where her body was found were classmates of my father at the old Woodmont School. Girls in my class at Percy Priest School were friends of Marcia's. I live today fewer than 300 yards from where her body was found.

My wife Nicki, who grew up on the street where we now live, knew several of the families directly affected by the case. She knows March Egerton, who lived under police scrutiny for years, as a fellow food writer. And John Egerton, his father, is a former business partner of mine.

In the late 1980s, I briefly worked for a company that employed one person whose name had come up in press accounts of the Trimble case. I recognized his name immediately and tried to make sure, when we were introduced, that he did not detect that recognition. My boss at that company had moved to Nashville from the upper reaches of New England. Days after I came aboard, he took me aside.

"What's all this whispering I keep hearing about ____ possibly being a child-murderer?" he asked.

My most direct connection is not one that touches on any possible conflict of interest. As an 11-year-old Boy Scout in March 1975, I was among hundreds or perhaps thousands of volunteers who searched every vacant quadrant of Davidson County for Marcia. I vividly remember being assigned to search the grounds surrounding Nashville's airport, Berry Field, and turning to ask the scoutmaster just before our troop set off:

"What are we supposed to do if we find her?"

Our adult leader found some way to evade directly answering that question, thus preserving the fiction that we might find her alive, which is what I had in mind when I asked. I don't think I was capable of imagining that she was dead.

There's at least one more connection that has preyed on my mind this past week. Marcia Trimble was a 9-year-old 4th-grader at Julia Green School when she perished. My daughter is the same age, in the same grade, at the same school.

Memories, unfiltered

This week, I have appealed to numerous friends and acquaintances who found their lives touched by the Trimble case to tell their stories. I gave all the option of anonymity, and although only some asked for it, I think it appropriate to treat all of their comments the same way.

The two exceptions include one current colleague and one friend whose encounter with the case happened on a professional level. The latter is Pat Nolan, now a well-known political commentator and a senior vice president at public relations firm Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence. Pat's e-mailed recollections are as follows:

I was just about to begin my career at Channel 5 when Marcia Trimble disappeared in late Febuary,1975. By the time I came on board in the newsroom the next month (March 3) at the age of 23, it was the lead story on every newscast every night.

Obviously, the nature of the story had a lot to do with that kind of coverage . But technology may have played a role too, at least in how the story was covered. TV stations were just beginning to add electronic news gathering (ENG) capabilities to their reporting from the field. Channel 5 was one of the first stations in the nation to have such capabilities, which included using videotape cameras rather than film cameras. That allowed the station to be able to instantly show what was happening rather than having to wait to process and develop film. More importantly, ENG used small microwave trucks which could send back live reports and/or video tape direct from the field.

The other local stations quickly scrambled to catch up. For example, Channel 4 had a large mobile production truck that wasn’t used all that often. But as the Trimble search continued, it was put into daily use so reporters could give the latest on every newscast live from the scene about what was happening.

All that came to a final, sad conclusion when Marcia’s body was found some weeks later. The discovery was made on Easter Sunday.

As the years went by, the investigation continued. I remember once when an arrest was made, I had the assignment to do a reaction story talking with the people who were neighbors in the boarding house (just off West End Avenue) where the suspect was living. Those charges were later dropped.

I guess because of that, while I certainly hope and pray Marcia’s murderer is one day brought to justice, I have been reluctant to jump to any quick conclusions about the case being solved.

My colleague and fellow Nashville native Ken Whitehouse, who is younger than I but shares my passion for local history, sent this recollection:

Former Davidson County Sheriff Fate Thomas was a friend of mine, and occasionally, just before he passed away, I'd go out to see him when he was working out at Bob Frensley's car dealership. One day we were talking about famous Nashville murders, mainly the Capitol Chevrolet murder and the Trimble murder.

When I asked about Trimble, Fate lit up with a fire I hadn't seen in a long time. He pounded his desk, exclaiming: "I checked that damn refrigerator the day before, the whole garage — she wasn't there!!!

Mind you, this conversation took place in 1999 (we were also talking about Al Gore's presidential chances, which is why I remember when), shortly before Fate died. After all that he had been through in his own life, his fortunes rising and falling in the interim, you could see that he still was upset, pissed-off even, that this was a case that had gone unsolved."

I also spoke with my Mom about this the other day. I told her that I remembered not being allowed to play in the yard with my sister when all of this happened. Sure, a police dragnet was evident all over the place, but I was only four and really wasn't aware, so you're talking about a kid who was mainly upset that he couldn't go outside.

Before I could ask what she recalled, Mom said very softly, with her voice trailing off:

"I still can hear the helicopters."

Others who sent me their recollections include relatives, old friends, and friends of friends:

Most of us recall an idyllic youth spend with few restrictions on movement of liberties as young children.

I can recall summer-time rules such as "be home by the time the street lights come on," and unchaperoned walks/bike rides to the commercial district in the third grade.

All that changed with the Trimble case. It rightfully horrified parents that our suburban paradise could thus be violated.

— a local stockbroker, 11 years of age when Marcia disappeared, who lived about two blocks away

The whole thing truly did change not just Nashville, but put a face on death for me at a very young age. I will never forget driving in the car on Easter Sunday 1975 and hearing how they found her body in the ______s' garage. There was no way a parent can sugar-coat that kind of news to a 9-year-old kid.

Now with an almost 9-year-old kid myself, I would hate for him to go through losing a friend like I did. We all grew up too fast at that point. In a way, this arrest would be closure not just for the Trimbles, but for me and every other kid in that neighborhood who knew Marcia.

A couple of years after her death, I had an old camera that my grandmother had given me. I had forgotten about it and took the film in it to be developed, and it came back with 12 pictures taken one day — one with a picture of just Marcia on it sitting on her front porch when me and her and another kid were playing in her front yard.

— a successful entrepreneur now living away from Nashville, 10 years old when Marcia disappeared, who grew up close to her home

I remember the helicopters as well. Surprisingly, there wasn't much parent panic, at least that they let us see. What I remember most about it was the endless speculation about which of the disturbed young men from the neighborhood was actually the perpetrator.

We also had many policeman searching through the yard (maybe with dogs) and they looked in our crawl-space — which really frightened me, wondering if they would find a body.

— a Nashville woman, 10 years old when Marcia disappeared, who grew up close to her home

I remember that a guy about my age named ____ ______ [ed. note: neither Jeffrey Womack nor March Egerton] lived in that neighborhood, and he was questioned several times over a period of many years by the police. I can remember playing against him in a church basketball game two or three years after the murder and it feeling awkward — as most of our teammates and our parents were thinking that we might be playing church ball against a guy who had possibly gotten away with the rape/murder of a 9-year-old girl.

I remember my own instincts telling me then: There’s no way this guy is guilty (he was a very nice kid) and what an injustice it was that so many people seemed inclined to think he was just because no other perpetrator had been caught yet.
When it was reported on the news the other night that the DNA was a match with that murderer, I immediately thought of ____ ______ and how his life would surely have been much better if they had caught this guy in 1975 instead of now.

— a Nashville banker who was a few years older than Marcia

You know, Tom, I am consumed by guilt, as I had assumed that the town gossip was correct: The death was a result of teenagers engaged in a sex game with Marcia that got out of control.

I know we were frightened and activities were curtailed.The aftermath for those neighborhood boys haunts me, if, in fact, they had nothing to do with it. I think it has in some ways scarred them.

— a Nashville entrepreneur, female, close to Marcia's age

© 2007

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1240)12/28/2007 5:19:25 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
Suzanne Jovin's Last Hour (timeline and map)

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1241)1/10/2008 5:49:52 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   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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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1242)1/20/2008 5:35:33 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
Re: 1/17/08 - Yale Daily News: Van de Velde’s innocence ignored by Yale’s higher-ups

Van de Velde’s innocence ignored by Yale’s higher-ups

Donald Connery
Guest Columnist

Published Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rachel Boyd’s article “Nine years later, murder of Yale senior still unsolved” (12/12/07) is yet another reminder of the moral issues that loom large in the endless tragedy of Suzanne Jovin’s death on Dec. 4, 1998.

What really caught my eye were the comments by “one Yale staff member.” This person, I assume, is not a low-level functionary but someone high enough in the administration to be considered an informed source by the reporter.

He or she, once guaranteed anonymity, feels quite free to attack James Van de Velde with unconscionable insinuations. This person is not at all impressed by the reality that no evidence or motive or history of wrongdoing has ever connected Suzanne’s thesis adviser to the Jovin killing.

The fact that Van de Velde’s DNA does not match the DNA found under Suzanne’s fingernails is no big deal, the protected source insists. He still could have been involved: “I don’t know if he did it or not, but I’m sure he was capable.”


We are offered a glimpse of a mindset that may reach all the way to the top of the Yale hierarchy. It reveals an attitude, still in place after nine years, which says, “We don’t have to admit we were wrong about Van de Velde because he has yet to prove his innocence. If the crime is never solved, the problem goes away.”

Because I am quoted in Rachel’s article and am known as a critic of the law enforcement for the travesties of the Jovin murder investigation, let me put things personally.

Connecticut’s nationally publicized 1973-77 Peter Reilly murder case compelled me to make a career shift from reporting foreign affairs to privately investigating the rampant wrongful convictions of our highly imperfect criminal justice system.

The Reilly saga, as told in my book “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” is now well established as a classic “wrong man” false confession case. It remains this state’s most controversial (and still unsolved) murder case ever.

Truly remarkable was the way people in the northwest corner of Litchfield County reacted after Peter, 18, was convicted for the savage slaying of his mother. He had “admitted” his guilt during a highly coercive round-the-clock State Police interrogation.

Common sense told just about everyone in Falls Village and the surrounding small towns that Peter was innocent, that the cops and prosecutors had got it wrong. There was no evidence, no motive, no bad-boy history, just the dubious confession and the police failure to look at far more likely suspects.

So money was raised to keep him out of prison while his conviction was appealed. Peter returned to the regional high school for a successful senior year with the blessing of the faculty, staff, students and parents. Two years later, following a judge’s ruling that he had suffered “a grave injustice,” Peter was exonerated when it was found that the authorities had falsified the evidence against him.

Now compare this with James Van de Velde’s experience at Yale as a popular lecturer and “straight arrow” Navy reserve officer. Once the New Haven police leaked the story about a Yale academic being in their sights, and once the University publicly identified him, unnecessarily, Van de Velde’s reputation and career were destroyed.

The administration removed him from classroom teaching on the excuse that his presence would be a distraction to the students. In contrast, Reilly, wearing the brand of a convicted killer, was never considered a distraction to the tender teenagers in the boondocks. It is noteworthy that a key decision-maker, Dean of Yale College Richard Brodhead, went on to the presidency of Duke University, there to preside over the mishandling of false rape accusations hurled at several lacrosse team members.

When Van de Velde was let go by Yale in 1999, it was already obvious that the police and prosecutors had botched the homicide investigation big time. Yet as the years rolled by, common decency as well as common sense never clicked in.

To this day, even with the New Haven state’s attorney’s recent announcement that “no person is a suspect in the crime,” the powers that be at Yale have never put things right with an acknowledgment that they have done great damage to one of their own.

Donald S. Connery is the author of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.”

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1243)3/11/2008 12:08:02 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
Re: 3/10/08 - Hartford Courant: More DNA 'Hits'; Tillman Case Break Shows The Value Of Taking Samples From Felony Suspects

More DNA 'Hits'
Tillman Case Break Shows The Value Of Taking Samples From Felony Suspects

March 10, 2008

The recent dramatic development in the crime for which James Tillman was wrongfully convicted illustrates why Connecticut should extend DNA sampling to include those arrested for felonies. Currently, samples are taken only from those convicted of felonies or crimes requiring registration as a sex offender.

Tillman was arrested after a woman identified him in a police photo lineup as the man who jumped her one evening in January 1988 as she got into her car in a Hartford parking lot, drove her a short distance and raped her. Convicted of sexual assault and kidnapping and sentenced to 45 years, he was exonerated in 2006 when DNA testing proved he wasn't the source of semen found on the woman's clothing.

Last month The Courant reported that Hartford police, working with investigators in the chief state's attorney's cold case unit, had linked the DNA found on the clothing to Duane Foster and had located him in a jail in Emporia, Va. Foster lived in Hartford at the time of the attack, has an arrest record for multiple felonies going back three decades and, as the side-by-side photos in The Courant demonstrated, bears a striking resemblance to Tillman.

Foster walked away from a halfway house in Middletown a year ago. He was arrested in August in Emporia on burglary and larceny charges in three counties. Because Virginia requires DNA samples from those arrested for a felony, his DNA was entered into that state's DNA database. By accessing that database, Connecticut investigators obtained a match between his DNA and the DNA on the woman's clothing and located him in the Emporia jail. He'll be returned to Connecticut at some point to face charges of kidnapping.

Virginia was the first state to pass legislation requiring a DNA sample from those arrested for felonies. It did so in 2002. Since then, 10 other states have followed its lead. California will begin obtaining samples from those arrested for felonies next Jan. 1. More than 20 other states are now considering similar legislation.

Last year, the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee approved legislation requiring a DNA sample from those arrested for class A or class B felonies. However, the Public Safety and Security Committee rejected the legislation amid concerns over the cost of training police in collection procedures, possible contamination of samples, intrusion into the privacy of individuals who are presumed to be innocent, and the disposal of samples from individuals who are subsequently found not to have committed the crime for which they were arrested.

As serious as those concerns are, there are strong reasons why the General Assembly should enact legislation requiring a DNA sample from those arrested for felonies. Connecticut began obtaining samples from those convicted of felonies only in 2003. As a result, the state's DNA database is relatively small compared with those in many other states.

According to data in the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, as of October the state's database contained samples from about 29,000 convicted offenders. In a state with 3.5 million residents, that's less than 1 percent of the population. Controlling for the difference in population, Virginia's database is more than four times larger.

The larger a state's database, the greater the likelihood of a "cold hit" — a match between an unidentified sample from a crime scene and one in the database. According to the FBI data, Connecticut's database has aided some 400 investigations. By contrast, Virginia's has aided more than 4,000 investigations.

Last year's proposed legislation is back before the legislature again this year. Also under consideration is a proposal put forward by Gov. M. Jodi Rell that addresses some of the procedural concerns voiced last year by delaying the collection of samples from those arrested for class A or class B felonies until after their arraignment.

The governor has also proposed that samples be obtained from those convicted of certain class A misdemeanors such as criminally negligent homicide, third-degree assault and stalking. While that extension makes good sense, it highlights the failure of both last year's legislation and the governor's proposal to require samples from those arrested for class C or class D felonies.

As they consider these proposals, the members of the General Assembly should keep in mind the lesson of the Tillman case — and approve legislation that extends DNA sampling to all those arrested for felonies.

David Cameron is a professor of political science at Yale.

Copyright © 2008, The Hartford Courant

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1244)3/11/2008 6:44:34 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
Re: 3/6/08 - NH Register: Faulty eyewitness IDs prime cause of wrongful convictions

Posted on Thu, Mar 6, 2008
Faulty eyewitness IDs prime cause of wrongful convictions
By David R. Cameron

HARTFORD police recently announced a major breakthrough in the crime for which James Tillman spent 17 years in prison before being exonerated in 2006. The breakthrough calls attention to the role of mistaken eyewitness identifications in wrongful convictions.

Tillman was arrested in 1988 after a woman identified him in a police photo lineup as the man who jumped her as she got into her car after an evening of drinks with co-workers, drove her a couple of blocks and then raped her. Convicted of sexual assault and kidnapping in 1989 and sentenced to 45 years in prison, he was exonerated when DNA testing proved he wasn’t the source of semen left on the woman’s clothing.

Working with investigators in the chief state’s attorney’s cold case unit, the Hartford police linked the DNA found on the woman’s clothing to another man, Duane Foster. Foster lived in Hartford at the time of the attack and has an arrest record for multiple felonies going back three decades. He walked away from a Middletown halfway house a year ago and was arrested last August in Emporia, Va., on burglary and larceny charges in three counties.

Virginia takes a DNA sample not only from anyone convicted of a felony but from anyone arrested on felony charges. As a result, Foster’s DNA was entered into the state’s DNA database after he was arrested. By accessing that database, the Connecticut investigators obtained a match between his DNA and the DNA on the victim’s clothing and also located him. He’ll eventually be brought back to Connecticut and tried for kidnapping.

The identification of Foster as the source of the DNA on the victim’s clothing provides a vivid illustration of why wrongful convictions occur. Side-by-side photographs of Foster and Tillman reveal a startling resemblance between the two. They have similar hairlines, eyebrows, eyes, noses, mouths and facial structures. They also resemble each other in height and weight.

It’s easy to see how the victim could have mistaken Tillman for Foster. That doesn’t excuse the jury for convicting him. A verdict of guilty in a criminal trial requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. An eyewitness identification, however credible, does not constitute proof.

The Innocence Project, which is dedicated to the exoneration by DNA of those who have been wrongfully convicted, reports the single most important cause, by far, of wrongful convictions is eyewitness misidentification. Incorrect eyewitness identifications figured in more than 70 percent of the 200-plus wrongful convictions that were later thrown out because of DNA.

The cautionary lesson of the Tillman case about eyewitness identifications is underscored by recent developments in a New Haven case. Eugenio DeLeon Vega was murdered in his store on Grand Avenue in the early morning of July 4, 1993. George Gould and Ronald Taylor were convicted of murder, burglary and conspiracy. They are now serving sentences of 80 years.

There was no physical evidence linking the men to the murder. A prostitute working the area told police she was nearby at the time of the murder and heard what sounded like two men shouting orders to open a safe, then screaming in Spanish and a gunshot, then saw two men run from the store. When shown photographs of Taylor and Gould, she identified them as the men she had seen.

The prosecutor told the jury “this case rises and falls” with her account: “If you believe her, you’ll convict. If you think she’s lying, you’ll acquit.”

The jury believed her. It turns out she lied.

According to an article in the New Haven Advocate, the woman told Gerald O’Donnell, a private investigator and former inspector in the state’s attorney’s office, in late 2006 — almost 12 years after Gould and Taylor were convicted — that she wasn’t there, didn’t hear the voices and didn’t see the men leave. She fabricated the story, she said, because she was “drug sick” and wanted to end hours of questioning by police.

Last year, forensic scientists found DNA on the cord used to tie up Vega that did not come from him, Gould or Taylor.

State’s Attorney Michael Dearington has reopened the case — something that very rarely happens.

Are all eyewitness identifications mistaken or fabricated? Of course not, but the recent developments in these cases underscore the need for juries to treat such identifications with skepticism, especially when not supported by DNA and other forensic and physical evidence.

David R. Cameron is a professor of political science at Yale. Readers may write to him in care of the Register, 40 Sargent Drive, New Haven 06511.

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From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell6/9/2008 9:52:39 PM
   of 1389
Re: 6/9/08 - NH Register: Team keeping mum on Jovin murder probe; 10th anniversary of crime coming up in December

Posted on Mon, Jun 9, 2008

Team keeping mum on Jovin murder probe
10th anniversary of crime coming up in December
By Randall Beach, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — Nearly a full year after it began work, the four-man team investigating the murder of Suzanne Jovin is keeping a low profile and reportedly has not contacted the one-time lead suspect or his attorney.

With the 10th anniversary of the crime looming next December, there is no indication of a breakthrough in the case, which has frustrated everybody who has looked into it.

Over the past decade, the slaying of Jovin, a 21-year-old Yale student who was found lying near the corner of Edgehill and East Rock roads the night of Dec. 4, 1998, has been investigated by New Haven Police, the state’s Cold Case Unit, two private detectives hired by Yale and, since last July, the four-man team.

Because the four investigators are part-time volunteers and their leader did not return phone calls from the Register, it is difficult to determine exactly how much time they are devoting to the case.

The team is led by John Mannion, a former head of the state police’s Central Major Crimes Unit. Although the team began working last summer, its existence was kept secret until Nov. 30, when Assistant State’s Attorney James Clark introduced the foursome during a news conference outside the New Haven County Courthouse.

Promising a fresh start at that time, Clark said, "No person is a suspect in the crime, and everyone is a suspect in the crime."

When Clark was then asked if that meant James Van de Velde, the only person ever named as a suspect in the slaying remained a suspect, Clark merely repeated his "no person is" and "everyone is" statement.

Van de Velde, who was a Yale lecturer and Jovin’s academic advisor in 1998, has maintained his innocence. But he said being named a suspect ruined his academic career. Now a security affairs consultant living near Washington, D.C., Van de Velde said in a recent e-mail message that he has not been contacted by any members of the four-man team.

"I have no idea what, if anything, they have done," Van de Velde added. "Did they even consider my suggested avenues of investigation?"

In a New Haven Register Op-ed article last December, Van de Velde reiterated specific suggestions to investigators, such as examining the DNA of the fingerprints found on a soda bottle at the crime scene; and checking out two specific individuals who had carried out abductions while driving vans in Connecticut. Witnesses saw a van parked near the Jovin crime scene the night of the crime.

Mannion did not return several phone call messages seeking comment on this and other aspects of the case.

Van de Velde’s attorney, David Grudberg, chose to take a positive message from the fact Mannion has not contacted him nor his client. "I assume it means they have examined the evidence and drawn the conclusion that we thought was obvious all along: James Van de Velde is not, and should never have been, a suspect."

Grudberg and Van de Velde had hoped that in October 2001, when forensic tests showed DNA found under Jovin’s fingernails did not match that of Van de Velde, authorities would publicly clear him. But they made no such announcement.

The four men on the Jovin investigation team are retired from state police work but now have other occupations. An article in New Haven Magazine earlier this year quoted Mannion saying the investigators meet once a week at most.

However, State’s Attorney Michael Dearington, who with Clark made the decision to assemble the four-man team, said in a recent interview, "Meeting once a week doesn’t begin to describe how much work they put into this. They are in daily communication with each other. This is a seven-day-a-week commitment to them. They are always thinking about this."

While acknowledging that they have full-time jobs, Dearington added, "In terms of their dedication to this, I consider it full-time. They also consider it full-time, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their regular jobs."

Without revealing what the team might have discovered, Dearington said, "We’re very pleased with the work they so far have accomplished."

Asked about the team’s timetable for concluding its investigation and submitting a report to Dearington, he said their work is "open-ended" and has no timetable.

The four have agreed to work on the case as volunteers, being paid $1 per year.

In addition to Mannion, the team consists of Patrick Gaffney, a former detective and sergeant in the Central Major Crimes Unit; Richard Wardell, a former detective on the Eastern Major Crime Squad; and Joseph Sudol, a former detective in the Central Major Crime Squad.

The public has been encouraged since Nov. 30 to provide leads to the team. The phone number is (203) 676-1575 and the email address is The mailing address is: Jovin Investigation Team, 234 Church St., Room 402, New Haven, 06510.

Mannion was not available to say whether the public has come forward with any promising tips.

There is a $150,000 reward for anybody who provides information leading to the conviction of Jovin’s killer. Yale University has committed $100,000 of that total and the state has offered $50,000.

Andrew Rosenzweig, one of two private investigators hired by Yale in 2000 to look into the slaying, said recently he had had a conference call with the four investigators. "They asked all the right questions and I volunteered things they didn’t ask."

When asked about the fact the four men have other jobs, Rosenzweig said, "Full-time (investigating) would certainly be better, without question."

But he added, "I’m hopeful a set of fresh eyes and a new team of investigators will be able to uncover something that previous efforts haven’t been able to."

Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.!-106238773?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pg_article&r21.pgpath=%2FNHR%2FHome&r21.content=%2FNHR%2FHome%2FTopStoryList_Story_2176284

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