|To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1251)||7/8/2008 10:21:05 AM|
|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell|
|Re: 7/8/08 - Hartford Courant: Slim Lead In Cold Case|
Slim Lead In Cold Case
July 8, 2008
In the TV crime drama "Cold Case," long unsolved murders are re-examined and wrapped up neatly by the end of the hour. Witnesses overlooked in the initial investigation are often the key to the outcome. At the close of the show, dramatic music and special effects give the viewer the impression that because of the always successful efforts of detectives, the long-dead victim and loved ones can rest at last.
So far, there is no such closure for Suzanne Jovin and her family. But there is a glimmer of hope.
The Yale University student was found dead — stabbed 17 times — on a street in New Haven on Dec. 4, 1998. Her brutal murder at age 21 has still not been solved. Lead after lead has grown cold or proved a dead end.
So it is promising that a team of retired state police officers is laying fresh eyes on what was a badly botched investigation. They have re-interviewed a witness in the area at the time of the murder who saw a man running from the direction where Ms. Jovin's body was found. They have released fliers with a composite sketch of the man based on the witness's description.
The man is not a suspect, they say, but someone they'd like to question. It is a long shot. After more than 10 years, memories grow fuzzy and descriptions less reliable. Door-to-door calls in the neighborhood where the man was last seen could turn up someone who remembers him.
It's infuriating, though, that this lead was not pursued to its fullest initially. A source told The Courant's Dave Altimari that police showed the woman a picture of James Van de Velde, Ms. Jovin's thesis adviser and a suspect in the case, to determine if he was the man she saw. He wasn't. Investigators didn't contact her again.
New Haven police had their sights set on Mr. Van de Velde, whose reputation they destroyed without any evidence to indicate he was involved, and plenty to show that he wasn't the killer. DNA under Ms. Jovin's fingernails didn't match his. He had no history of violence. His car did not match one described by witnesses as being in the area.
Instead of seeking Ms. Jovin's killer with open minds, police created a second victim in falsely focusing attention on Mr. Van de Velde. The university abetted the mistake by dismissing him from his teaching duties.
We don't expect that the latest lead in this puzzling case will by itself yield the killer, as happens on TV. But it's good that four experienced investigators are on the case and following through on information their predecessors failed to take seriously.
© 2008, The Hartford Courant
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|To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1252)||7/16/2008 11:28:36 PM|
|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell|
|Re: 7/16/08 - Yale Daily News: Investigators seek the 'someone' Jovin referenced in hour before stabbing|
Investigators seek the 'someone' Jovin referenced in hour before stabbing
Published Wednesday, July 16, 2008
In its second revelation to the public in two weeks, a team of investigators probing the 1998 slaying of Yale College senior Suzanne Jovin has announced that it is seeking the identity of an individual to whom Jovin had lent GRE study materials — a potentially critical line of inquiry that lead investigator John Mannion said previous investigators on the case neglected to explore.
A mysterious, nondescript "someone," whom Jovin mentioned in an e-mail she sent less than an hour before she was found stabbed in New Haven's East Rock neighborhood, is the target of the Jovin Investigation Team's latest lead. But Mannion said there is nothing at this point to indicate that this “someone” is connected with the murder.
Although Jovin's e-mail, written in German to a classmate, has been part of the murder case file for several years, Mannion said there is "no record" of previous investigators’ attempting to establish the identity of the "someone."
"Don't get me started on whether the initial investigation was wonderful," Assistant State's Attorney James Clark ’72 said, with a hint of sarcasm. "There's no way to rewrite history, so you move forward with the different focus."
Now, in an effort to piece together a timeline of the night of the murder, the Jovin Investigation Team is looking primarily to Yale alumni — perhaps a classmate who knew Jovin, who talked to her, who took the GRE with her in October of 1998 — who may have knowledge of the "someone" to whom Jovin lent her books.
A question never asked
Jovin had just returned to her Park Street apartment on Dec. 4, 1998, after leaving a pizza-making party around 8:30 p.m. She had organized the event, which was held at Trinity Lutheran Church, for the New Haven chapter of Best Buddies, an organization that partners volunteers with individuals who are intellectually disabled.
At 9:02 that night, Jovin sent an e-mail to a female Yale classmate of hers. In the e-mail, Jovin apologized for not returning her classmate's phone call. Jovin wrote she had her classmate's GRE study materials, including a book and a CD-ROM, but had lent them out to "someone" else.
It was the phrasing — "someone" as opposed to "a friend" or "Bob," Mannion said — that initially piqued his interest in the detail. In the last decade, this "someone" has not come forward with his or her identity. Clark said that may be because the question of the person’s identity was never asked "in a public way."
Jovin wrote that she would retrieve the books and leave them in the foyer of her apartment for the classmate to pick up, giving her classmate the code to her apartment in case Jovin was not in the building.
At about 9:25 p.m., Peter Stein '99 ran into Jovin on her way to Phelps Gate. She was returning the keys to a University-owned car she had used to get to the Best Buddies event. Stein told the News in 1999 that Jovin told him she planned on returning to her apartment and getting some rest.
A few minutes later, Jovin was spotted near Phelps Gate on College Street by another student, who did not talk to her. It is unclear from that student's testimony, Mannion said, whether Jovin was walking somewhere, waiting for someone or pausing to admire the holiday lights along the New Haven Green.
That eyewitness — the last person known to have seen Jovin alive — did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. The Jovin Investigation Team has not interviewed this eyewitness directly, but multiple interviews have been documented.
Just over half an hour later, police found Jovin on the corner of Edgehill Avenue and East Rock Road. She had been stabbed 17 times in the head, neck and back. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Yale-New Haven Hospital at 10:26 p.m.
‘There's always a possibility of anything’
Neither Clark nor Mannion offered any judgment on the fact that the "someone" was only now being pursued.
For a nearly decade-old case that has made little progress in recent years, the Jovin team's recent inquiries offer a glimmer of insight into the workings of investigators and the history of the investigation itself.
Just over two weeks ago, the Jovin Investigation Team distributed posters and made house calls in East Rock. The investigators are still looking to identify "a physically fit and athletic looking white male with defined features, 20 to 30 years of age, with well groomed blond or dark blond hair" seen running two-tenths of a mile from where Jovin was stabbed on the night of Dec. 4, 1998.
Citing sources "familiar with the case", the Hartford Courant reported on July 2 that it was a Hamden woman who gave the description of the man after he ran in front of her car shortly before 10 p.m. and glanced at her. When she originally came forward with her testimony, police took her to the office of James Van de Velde ’82 — then a Yale lecturer and the only publicly named suspect at the time — to see whether she could identify Van de Velde as the runner, according to the Courant.
She did not, and was reportedly never contacted by investigators again.
Van de Velde and his attorney, David Grudberg '82, have long insisted that the investigation's preoccupation with Van de Velde damaged not only Van de Velde's personal life but the homicide case as well. Grudberg told the News earlier this month that the Team's delayed inquiries, though welcome, are representative of the early investigation's "tunnel-vision."
The illustration issued earlier this month — featuring a composite of the man seen running near the scene of Jovin’s body — could match the profile of a local university student. So could the "someone" in Jovin's e-mail.
"There's always a possibility of anything,” Clark said. “We aren't drawing those lines.”
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|To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1253)||7/18/2008 2:46:56 PM|
|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell|
|Re: 7/16/08 - Hartford Courant: 'Someone' Sought In Decade-Old Yale Slaying|
'Someone' Sought In Decade-Old Yale Slaying
By DAVE ALTIMARI
July 16, 2008
Original Hartford Courant article: 'Someone' Sought In Decade-Old Yale Slaying
Read all 13 comments »
It was one of the last e-mails Suzanne Jovin ever wrote, promising a friend she would return some study materials to her the next morning after she got them back from an unnamed 'somebody.'
In the e-mail written in German at 9:02 p.m., Dec. 4, 1998, Jovin told her friend she'd leave the books and CD-Rom in the foyer of her apartment. She even gave her Yale classmate the security code to her apartment in case she was not home.
Less than an hour later, Jovin was dying from 17 stab wounds to the back and head.
Now a team of retired state police investigators is reaching out to the Yale University community trying to determine who the 'someone' was that Jovin had lent the study materials to.
'No one has apparently tried to figure out who that person was,' said team leader John Mannion.
'We don't know if she planned on seeing that person the night she was murdered, but it is a person we'd like to identify and try to talk to,' he said.
Investigators have asked the Yale Alumni Association to run stories in their publications and also released the e-mail to the Yale Daily News, the school newspaper, in hopes that the 'somebody' will come forward or that a former classmate will know who the person is.
It is the second time in a month that the retired detectives have asked the public's assistance for help in the almost decade-old homicide investigation.
Last month investigators released a composite of a man that a Hamden woman saw as she was driving slowly north on Whitney Avenue in New Haven's East Rock neighborhood shortly before 10 p.m. on the night Jovin was killed. The man ran in front of the Hamden woman's car, glanced quickly at her and fled.
Jovin was discovered face down near Edgehill and East Rock roads, less than a half-mile from where the man was spotted. Investigators believe Jovin was killed shortly before 10 p.m.
Investigators have not called the man in the composite a 'suspect,' but rather someone they would like to identify and interview. Although they have received numerous calls since the composite was released, investigators have yet to identify the man.
Mannion said it doesn't appear anyone in previous investigations of the Jovin homicide have tried to identify the person she was referring to in the e-mail.
Investigators have talked to the friend who got the e-mail - a friend of Jovin's from Germany - but she has been unable to tell them who Jovin was supposedly getting the materials from.
Jovin had returned to her apartment after holding a pizza party for the Best Buddies of New Haven. She went on her computer for a few minutes before leaving to return the keys to a van she had rented from the university.
Jovin stopped to talk to a classmate on her way to drop off the keys about 9:15 p.m., telling him she was tired and planned to go back to her apartment. Another Yale student saw her outside of Phelps Gate walking on College Street toward Elm Street about 9:25 p.m.
Investigators believe that was the last person other than her killer to see Jovin that night.
Mannion and his team of three other retired state police detectives have been reviewing the case for more than a year. They were hired by Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane and were supposed to retrace the previous investigations, but they have been pursuing leads of their own.
It is the second time that outside investigators have reviewed the homicide investigation which technically is still under the jurisdiction of the New Haven Police Department.
In 2000, New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington gave two former New York City police-turned-private-investigators, Patrick J. Harnett and Andrew Rosenzweig, access to the case files. The men were hired by Yale.
Harnett and Rosenzweig worked on the case for more than a year before running into a dispute with New Haven prosecutor James Clark, who is overseeing the investigation. The dispute centered on tests the men tried to get the state forensic lab to perform on evidence without seeking Clark's approval.
New Haven police focused intently on Jovin's senior thesis adviser, Professor James Van de Velde, interviewing him for more than four hours at police headquarters a few days after Jovin died.
After police identified Van de Velde as being in a 'pool of suspects,' Yale canceled Van de Velde's class, claiming the murder investigation would be a distraction for students. He left the university a few months later.
Van de Velde has vehemently denied any involvement in Jovin's slaying. He has criticized New Haven police, claiming they focused exclusively on him and ignored leads that could have led to the killer. He later sued both Yale and New Haven police in federal court, but the lawsuit was dismissed. He is appealing that dismissal.
Contact Dave Altimari at email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 Hartford Courant, All Rights Reserved.
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|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell||7/20/2008 1:11:06 AM|
|Suzanne Jovin case|
Suzanne Nahuela Jovin (b. January 26, 1977, Göttingen, Germany - d. December 4, 1998, New Haven, Connecticut) was a senior at Yale University in New Haven, CT when she was brutally stabbed to death off campus. The city of New Haven and Yale University have offered a combined $150,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Jovin’s killer [ ct.gov ]. The crime remains unsolved.
Jovin was born and raised in Göettingen, Germany, the third of four daughters, to scientists Donna and Thomas Jovin. Fluent in German, English, French, and Spanish, and a visitor of four continents, Jovin chose to expand on her passion for international diplomacy and public service in college, majoring in political science and international studies. It was this love of public service – of doing good for others – that motivated Jovin to join the New Haven chapter of Best Buddies. Jovin also volunteered as a tutor through the Yale Tutoring in Elementary Schools program, sang in both the Freshman Chorus and the Bach Society Orchestra, co-founded the German Club, and worked for three years in the Davenport dining hall. [ web.archive.org ]
After dropping off the penultimate draft of her senior essay on the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, at approximately 4:15pm on December 4, 1998, Suzanne Jovin began preparations for a pizza-making party she had organized at the Trinity Lutheran Church on 292 Orange St. for the local chapter of Best Buddies, an international organization that brings together students and mentally disabled adults. By 8:30pm, after staying late to help clean up, she was driving another volunteer home in a borrowed university station wagon. At about 8:45 she returned the car to the Yale owned lot on the corner of Edgewood Ave and Howe St and proceeded to walk two blocks to her second floor apartment at 258 Park Street, upstairs from a Yale police substation.
Sometime prior to 8:50, a few friends passed by Jovin's window and asked her if she wanted to join them at the movies. Jovin said no-- that she was planning to do school work that night. At 9:02, she logged onto her Yale e-mail account and told a friend to she was going to leave a GRE study book and CD-ROM for her in her (Jovin’s) lobby. At 9:10 she logged off. It is uncertain if she made or received any calls; calls within Yale's telephone system were not traceable. She wore the same soft, low-cut hiking boots, jeans, and maroon fleece pullover she had worn at the pizza party. [ web.archive.org ]
Very shortly thereafter, Jovin headed out on foot to the Yale police communications center under the arch at Phelps Gate on Yale’s Old Campus to return the keys to the car she had borrowed. Shortly before reaching her destination, at about 9:22, Jovin encountered classmate Peter Stein who was out for a walk. Stein is quoted by the Yale Daily News as saying "She did not mention plans to go anywhere or do anything else afterward. She just said that she was very, very tired and that she was looking forward to getting a lot of sleep." [ Message 12186579 ] Stein also said Jovin was not wearing a backpack, was holding one or more sheets of white 8 ½ x 11 inch paper in her right hand, that she was walking at a "normal" pace and did not look nervous or excited, and that their encounter lasted only two to three minutes [ Message 12314024 ].
Based on the timeline, it is presumed Jovin returned the keys to the borrowed car at about 9:25. She was reportedly last seen alive at between 9:25-9:30pm walking northeast on College Street, but not yet past Elm Street, by another Yale student who was returning from a Yale hockey game. The two never spoke. [ web.archive.org ]
At 9:55, a passerby dialed 911 to report a woman bleeding at the corner of Edgehill Rd and East Rock Rd, a posh neighborhood 1.9 miles from the Yale campus where Jovin was last seen alive. When police arrived at 9:58, they found Jovin fatally stabbed 17 times in the back of her head and neck and her throat slit. She was lying on her stomach, feet in the road, body on the grassy area between the road and the sidewalk. She was fully clothed and still wearing her watch and earrings, with a crumpled up dollar bill in her pocket; her wallet later found to be still in her room. Suzanne Jovin was officially pronounced dead at 10:26 at Yale New Haven Hospital [ Message 13108310 ].
Many items and observations have been reported by the police and media as possible evidence over the nine plus years of the investigation, much of which has either been discredited, deemed hearsay, unreliable, or been explained. The most reliable physical evidence appears to be: 1) DNA found in scrapings taken from under the fingernails of Jovin’s left hand [ wtnh.com ], 2) Jovin’s fingerprints and an unknown person’s partial palmprint found on a Fresca bottle in the bushes in front of where her body was found [ Message 15594543 ], and 3) the tip of an estimated 4-5 inch non-serrated carbon steel blade lodged in her skull [ Message 13108310 ]. The most reliable observation appears to be the sighting by more than one individual of a tan or brown van at the precise location where Jovin’s body was found.
The existence of the tan/brown van was not made public by the New Haven Police (NHPD) until March 27, 2001, when they wrote: “witnesses have said that as they approached the corner of East Rock and Edgehill Roads, they saw a tan or brown van stopped in the roadway facing east, immediately adjacent to where Suzanne was found.”[ cityofnewhaven.com ] Although members of the Yale faculty had reported the police were asking privately about the van at the inception of the investigation, no explanation has ever been given why it took more than two years to release the information to the public. Although the New Haven Register reported on November 8, 2001, that the NHPD had impounded a brown van as part of the Jovin investigation, no link has ever been confirmed [ Message 16626772 ]. There have been no reports of anyone witnessing Jovin enter or exit any vehicle nor has the observed van apparently been found.
The existence of the Fresca bottle came to light on April 1, 2001, by Hartford Courant reporter Les Gura [ Message 15594543 ] The only store in the vicinity of campus that sold Fresca open at the hour Jovin was last seen alive was Krauszers market on York St near Elm St – precisely one block south of Jovin’s apartment. Although Krauszers maintained a video recording of its customers for security purposes, the police never asked to view their tape and have never reported seeking assistance from store employees or customers about whether they had seen anything unusual that night. The foreign palmprint has yet to be identified.
The first mention of the existence of the DNA was on October 26, 2001, following a solicitation by the New Haven police for colleagues, friends and acquaintances of Jovin to come forward and give DNA samples voluntarily[ Message 16567899 ]. No explanation has ever been given why it took nearly three years for the fingernail scrapings to be tested for DNA. No match has yet been found.
A mere four days after the murder, the name of Jovin’s thesis advisor, James Van de Velde, was leaked to the New Haven Register as the prime suspect in the case. Fifteen months later, criminologist John Pleckaitis, then a sergeant at the New Haven Police Department, admitted to Hartford Courant reporter Les Gura: "From a physical evidence point of view, we had nothing to tie him to the case ... I had nothing to link him to the crime." [ Message 15594543 ] Famed criminologist Henry Lee’s offer to reconstruct the crime scene was accepted by the police but for reasons unknown never acted upon [ Message 13020588 ].
Based on subsequent questioning of the Yale community, and based on Van de Velde’s name being released prior to the completion of his police interrogation, it became apparent the NHPD had for reasons unknown convinced itself that Van de Velde and Jovin must have been having an illicit or unrequited affair-- a notion that friends of Jovin, especially her boyfriend, found offensive, false and wholly unlikely [ Message 12231664 ]. Nevertheless, with no physical evidence nor a motive, the NHPD continued to maintain that their naming of Van de Velde was not presumptuous. An apparently unquestioning Yale, under the guidance of Dean Richard Brodhead, then chose to cancel Van de Velde’s spring 1999 classes citing his presence as a “major distraction” for students, thus destroying his reputation and academic career [ Message 12231664 ]. Brodhead would later become the President of Duke University where he became best known for his rush to judgment in disbanding their lacrosse team based on equally dubious accusations that were later proven to be false and malicious. [ article.nationalreview.com ]
In 2000, Van de Velde and colleagues strongly and eventually publicly encouraged Yale to hire their own private investigators to study the case. In December, 2000, under additional pressure from the Jovin family, Yale relented and hired the team of Andrew Rosenzweig, former chief investigator with the New York district attorney's office, and Bill Harnett, a former homicide detective from the Bronx, NY [ Message 18869513 ]. It was at their insistence that the NHPD finally allowed the state forensics lab to analyze Jovin’s fingernail scrapings for DNA. Neither the resulting DNA nor Fresca bottle fingerprint was a match to Van de Velde, prompting Harnett to label Van de Velde “Richard Jewell with a Ph.D” [ yaledailynews.com ] [ Jewell was a hero security guard falsely accused by the FBI of the Centennial Park bombing during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA ]. No explanation has ever been given why Yale has chosen to keep the results of their investigation a secret.
The NHPD responded by contacting the US Navy, Van de Velde’s primary employer at the time, urging them to reconsider their contract work with him-- going so far as to travel to Washington DC to offer their “assistance.” A thorough review was conducted that resulted in Van de Velde being allowed to keep his job and his security clearance [ Message 19563441 ]. Sensing the investigation had dead-ended on him, Van de Velde undertook a letter writing campaign urging the Connecticut State cold case unit to take over the case[ Message 19797309 ]. When the Chief State’s Attorney refused, Van de Velde began pressing the police to undertake additional state-of-the-art forensic tests on the evidence [ Message 19757665 ].
On September 1, 2006, nearly eight years after the murder, the Jovin investigation was officially classified a cold case and moved to the Connecticut’s Cold Case Unit [ Message 24102344 ]. However, the case was never added to the Cold Case Unit web site nor was there any mention of the reward being offered—prompting Van de Velde once again to write letters of complaint. On November 29, 2007, Assistant State’s Attorney James Clark admitted that the case had been secretly reassigned back to New Haven in June of that year, this time under the auspices of a handpicked team of four retired detectives. According to Clark: “no person is a suspect in the crime, and everyone is a suspect in the crime.” [ ct.gov ]
On January 12, 2001, Van de Velde sued Quinnipiac University for wrongfully dismissing him from a graduate program he was enrolled in there [ Message 15253819 ]. Van de Velde agreed to drop the lawsuit on January 26, 2004, in exchange for $80,000. [ Message 19737648 ]
In December 7, 2001, Van de Velde sued the NHPD claiming they violated his civil rights by naming only him publicly as a suspect while claiming that other suspects existed as well [ Message 16764579 ]. Van de Velde added Yale as a defendant on April 15, 2003. [ yaledailynews.com ] Both suits were dismissed on March 29, 2004 [ Message 19965859 ]. Van de Velde appealed, but in April 2006 Connecticut District Court Chief Judge Robert Chatigny ruled against him. Van de Velde asked Chatigny to reconsider in May of 2006, resulting in the judge reinstating just the state claims on December 11, 2007. [ Message 24130059 ]
Google satellite maps of Jovin’s most probable route on the night of her murder may be viewed at: Message 24166152
Jovin’s route across Yale’s gated Old Campus, which is off-limits to cars, makes it quite unlikely she was trailed by someone in a vehicle. The timeline, distance to where she was found dead (1.9 miles), her clothing, what she said to friends, etc. strongly indicate a vehicle was used to transport her off campus, making it also quite unlikely Jovin was followed on foot. Combined, this significantly lowers the chances Jovin was stalked.
The witness who saw her on the Old Campus said she wasn’t holding a Fresca, which means she most likely bought one (note: Jovin was known to like Fresca, making it less likely someone had offered her one randomly) at Krauszers market on the corner of York St and Elm St. on her way back home. The only place for a car to be introduced here would be in front of the store or, more likely, on the secluded stretch of Elm between York and Park next to, or in front of, the boarded up Daily Café.
To establish a “she knew her killer” scenario would require, after just telling people how very tired she was and looking forward to being home to rest, in the one-block area between Krauszers and her apartment: a) she ran into someone she knew well enough to get into their car, b) she had a compelling reason to get into their car, c) whatever conversation that took place got heated enough in a matter of minutes to lead to a vicious murder, *and* d) this unscheduled encounter involved someone who just happened to have a knife on them. Possible, yes, but not probable.
The Fresca bottle containing both Jovin’s fingerprints and an unknown person’s palmprint was found in the bushes in front of where her body was found. People who flee from a car driven by an attacker likely do not take their soda bottles with them. People who are run down outside and stabbed 17 times would likely scream loudly and consistently for help, put up a fight, and leave a trail of a massive amount of blood. There is no evidence any of the above happened, let alone all of it. The most likely scenario is Jovin was attacked in the tan/brown van observed by several witnesses and then dumped, along with the Fresca bottle, which would account for her proximity to the road. That Jovin a) did not drop her Fresca prior to entering the vehicle, b) was not able to flee the vehicle, and c) had no defensive wounds, likely implies overwhelming force, suggesting perhaps more than one person was involved in her abduction.
While multiple stab wounds often indicates a crime of passion, it can indicate rage or drug use as well. As foreign DNA does not ordinarily transfer to underneath one’s fingernails with merely “routine” contact, it is reasonable to conclude that Jovin scratching her attacker might have precipitated his rage. However, given a) the reported 4-5 inch size of the knife used to stab Jovin, b) that the tip of the knife broke off in her skull, c) that the killer saw fit to slit her throat, likely after stabbing her 17 times, and d) that she was found barely alive, one has to consider the possibility that perhaps the flimsy nature of the murder weapon necessitated inflicting the high number of wounds.
As Jovin was fully clothed with no reported tears in her outfit and no defensive wounds, while an attempted sexual assault can not be ruled out, there is no basis to assume this was the motive. As Jovin was found in a residential area that was void of ATMs, was still wearing her jewelry, and still had a dollar bill in her pocket, it is hard to assume that her abduction was a robbery gone bad… unless the killer became enraged that she had left her wallet in her apartment or unless the killers were looking for quick cash en route down East Rock Rd to East Rock Park to buy drugs, a known druggie hangout. Some have speculated Jovin’s thesis on Osama bin Laden may have made her a terrorist target, but given she used no live sources, given this was nearly three years prior to 9-11, and given Al-Qaeda has no history of such attacks, this notion seems quite improbable.
* [ Message 15594543 Are You Wrong About James Van de Velde? ] [ [ Hartford Courant ] ] April 1, 2001
* [ cityofnewhaven.com New Haven Police Department Summary of the Case ] March 27, 2001
* [ web.archive.org Murder Most Yale ] [ [ Vanity Fair ] ] August, 1999
* [ Subject 32074 Public message board on Silicon Investor discussing the case ]
* [ Message 24199622 Avenues to Investigate in the Jovin Cold Case Homicide ]
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|To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1255)||7/24/2008 12:18:47 AM|
|From: John Sladek|
Thanks for the update. I'm glad that someone is following up on these leads.
December 7, 2001, Van de Velde sued the NHPD claiming they violated his civil rights by naming only him publicly as a suspect while claiming that other suspects existed as well ... Van de Velde appealed, but in April 2006 Connecticut District Court Chief Judge Robert Chatigny ruled against him. Van de Velde asked Chatigny to reconsider in May of 2006, resulting in the judge reinstating just the state claims on December 11, 2007.
FWIW, maybe Van de Velde should consider adding "invasion of privacy" to his lawsuit.
A former Army scientist who was named a "person of interest" in the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks has reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the Justice Department.
Steven Hatfill sued former Attorney General John Ashcroft and the department in 2003, claiming that his privacy was violated when his name was leaked to the media in connection with an investigation into the biological attacks in the eastern United States.
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|To: John Sladek who wrote (1256)||8/1/2008 3:21:37 AM|
|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell|
|Re: 8/1/08 - LA Times: Apparent suicide in anthrax case; Bruce E. Ivins, a scientist who helped the FBI investigate the 2001 mail attacks, was about to face charges.|
From the Los Angeles Times
Apparent suicide in anthrax case
Bruce E. Ivins, a scientist who helped the FBI investigate the 2001 mail attacks, was about to face charges.
By David Willman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 1, 2008
A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.
Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government's elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.
Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.
Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator's office in Washington.
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI.
The death -- without any mention of suicide -- was announced to Ivins' colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, through a staffwide e-mail.
"People here are pretty shook up about it," said Caree Vander Linden, a spokeswoman for USAMRIID, who said she was not at liberty to discuss details surrounding the death.
The anthrax mailings killed five people, crippled national mail service, shut down a Senate office building and spread fear of further terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The extraordinary turn of events followed the government's payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI's chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.
The payout to Hatfill, a highly unusual development that all but exonerated him in the mailings, was an essential step to clear the way for prosecuting Ivins, according to lawyers familiar with the matter.
Federal investigators moved away from Hatfill -- for years the only publicly identified "person of interest" -- and ultimately concluded that Ivins was the culprit after FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III changed leadership of the investigation in late 2006.
The FBI's new top investigators -- Vincent B. Lisi and Edward W. Montooth -- instructed agents to reexamine leads or potential suspects that may have received insufficient attention. Moreover, significant progress was made in analyzing genetic properties of the anthrax powder recovered from letters addressed to two senators.
The renewed efforts led the FBI back to USAMRIID, where agents first questioned scientists in December 2001, a few weeks after the fatal mailings.
By spring of this year, FBI agents were still contacting Ivins' present and former colleagues. At USAMRIID and elsewhere, scientists acquainted with Ivins were asked to sign confidentiality agreements in order to prevent leaks of new investigative details.
Ivins, employed as a civilian at Ft. Detrick, earlier had attracted the attention of Army officials because of anthrax contaminations that Ivins failed to report for five months. In sworn oral and written statements to an Army investigator, Ivins said that he had erred by keeping the episodes secret -- from December 2001 to late April 2002. He said he had swabbed and bleached more than 20 areas that he suspected were contaminated by a sloppy lab technician.
"In retrospect, although my concern for biosafety was honest and my desire to refrain from crying 'Wolf!' . . . was sincere, I should have notified my supervisor ahead of time of my worries about a possible breach in biocontainment," Ivins told the Army. "I thought that quietly and diligently cleaning the dirty desk area would both eliminate any possible [anthrax] contamination as well as prevent unintended anxiety at the institute."
The Army chose not to discipline Ivins regarding his failure to report the contamination. Officials said that penalizing Ivins might discourage other employees from voluntarily reporting accidental spills of "hot" agents.
But Ivins' recollections should have raised serious questions about his veracity and his intentions, according to some of those familiar with the investigation. For instance, although Ivins said that he swabbed areas near and within his personal office, and bleached surfaces to kill any spores, and that some of the swabs tested positive, he was vague about what should have been an essential next step:
Reswabbing to check whether any spores remained.
"I honestly do not recall if follow-up swabs were taken of the area," Ivins said. "I may have done so, but I do not now remember reswabbing."
"That's bull----," said one former senior USAMRIID official. "If there's contamination, you always reswab. And you would remember doing it."
The former official told The Times that Ivins might have hedged regarding reswabbing out of fear that investigators would find more of the spores inside or near his office.
Ivins' statements were contained within a May 2002 Army report on the contamination at USAMRIID and was obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
Soon after the government's settlement with Hatfill was announced June 27, Ivins began showing signs of serious strain.
One of his longtime colleagues told The Times that Ivins, who was being treated for depression, indicated to a therapist that he was considering suicide.
Soon thereafter, family members and local police officers escorted Ivins from USAMRIID, where his access to sensitive areas was curtailed, the colleague said.
Ivins was committed to a facility in Frederick for treatment of his depression. On July 24, he was released from the facility, operated by Sheppard Pratt Health System. A telephone call that same day by The Times verified that Ivins' government voice mail was still functioning at the bacteriology division of USAMRIID.
The scientist faced forced retirement, planned for September, said his longtime colleague, who described Ivins as emotionally fractured by the federal scrutiny.
"He didn't have any more money to spend on legal fees. He was much more emotionally labile, in terms of sensitivity to things, than most scientists. . . . He was very thin-skinned."
FBI spokeswoman Debra J. Weierman said Thursday that the bureau would not comment on the death of Ivins.
Last week, FBI Director Mueller told CNN that "in some sense, there have been breakthroughs" in the case.
"I'll tell you we made great progress in the investigation," Mueller added.
"And it's in no way dormant."
Ivins, the son of a Princeton-educated pharmacist, was born and raised in Lebanon, Ohio, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a doctorate in microbiology, from the University of Cincinnati.
The eldest of his two brothers, Thomas Ivins, said he was not surprised by the events that have unfolded.
"He buckled under the pressure from the federal government," Thomas Ivins said, adding that FBI agents came to Ohio last year to question him about his brother.
"I was questioned by the feds, and I sung like a canary" about Bruce Ivins' personality and tendencies, Thomas Ivins said.
"He had in his mind that he was omnipotent."
Ivins' widow declined to be interviewed when reached Thursday at her home in Frederick. The couple raised twins, now 24.
The family's home is 198 miles -- about a 3 1/2 -hour drive -- from a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., where anthrax spores were found by investigators.
All of the recovered anthrax letters were postmarked in that vicinity.
Willman reported from Los Angeles and Washington. Times researcher Janet Lundblad contributed to this report.
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|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell||12/8/2008 2:44:32 PM|
|Re: 12/4/08 - Yale Daily News: A decade later, remembering Suzanne Jovin|
Yale Daily News
Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008
A decade later, remembering Suzanne Jovin
By Harrison Korn
At least a dozen people will gather around a granite memorial plaque in the Davenport College courtyard this morning.
The group — which includes dining hall workers, the University chaplain, Davenport administrators and University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith — will assemble to pay their respects to the late Suzanne Jovin ’99.
They have met in Davenport every year for the last nine years, except during the college’s 2004 renovation, when the group met at a street corner in New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood.
It was at that very corner on the evening of Dec. 4, 1998, that police found Jovin, then a Davenport senior majoring in political science and international studies, stabbed 17 times in the head, neck and back. She had been spotted on campus — almost two miles away — just 20 minutes prior.
Ten years later, her tragic death remains unsolved. Despite their renewed efforts in the last year, investigators say they have not uncovered any promising leads. But even as the trail seems to grow colder, warm memories of Jovin, at least among those who knew her, live on.
Jovin, a native of Göettingen, Germany, spent the early evening on Dec. 4, 1998, at a holiday pizza party for Best Buddies, an organization that pairs students with individuals with intellectual disabilities, at New Haven’s Trinity Lutheran Church.
After parking a car she borrowed, Jovin returned to her apartment on Park Street, where she was seen by friends at 8:50 p.m.
At approximately 9:25 p.m., Peter Stein ’99 saw Jovin walking toward Phelps Gate, he told newspapers at the time. Jovin told him she was going to return the keys to the car at Phelps Hall and then immediately return home to her apartment, he said.
Minutes later, a student returning from a Yale hockey game saw Jovin walking on College Street toward Elm Street.
At 9:58 p.m., Jovin was found stabbed on the corner of Edgehill Avenue and East Rock Road. She was pronounced dead-on-arrival at Yale-New Haven Hospital shortly after.
Within a week, James Van de Velde ’82, Jovin’s senior thesis adviser and instructor of her political science seminar, “Strategy and Policy in the Conduct of War,” became the only publicly named suspect in the case. Van de Velde lived just three-fifths of a mile from where Jovin’s body was found. The fact that a popular Yale lecturer was implicated shocked many on campus.
One month later, then-Dean of Yale College Richard Brodhead cancelled Van de Velde’s spring-term classes and told Van de Velde that he was not allowed to advise any senior essays or directed readings.
No evidence linking Van de Velde to the crime has ever been publicly presented, and he was never charged.
In September 2006, after years without progress, the case was handed over to Connecticut’s Cold Case Unit.
Approximately one year ago, Assistant State’s Attorney James Clark ’72 announced that a team of four detectives would take a fresh look at the murder. In an attempt to reinvigorate the case, the investigators wiped the slate clean and pledged to look at the case as if it had just happened.
Van de Velde has a lawsuit currently pending against 10 Yale and NHPD officials for what he claims is a violation of his Constitutional rights during the course of the investigation. He continues to push the authorities to take a more thorough look at the forensic evidence gathered at the scene.
“My lawyer will be filing a crucial motion tomorrow regarding my suit which we hope will allow me to hold the City and Yale accountable for their actions,” Van de Velde wrote in an e-mail message to the News on Wednesday.
A COLD CASE
Immediately after Jovin was murdered, there was some hope that the case would be solved. Police, for instance, were saying they had compiled a list of suspects. But as the days, weeks and months passed, that optimism slowly faded.
“The people that I know don’t have much hope that [the homicide] will be solved,” Davenport alumnus Ruth Kaplan ’99 told The New York Times a year after the homicide. “If somebody can get away with that kind of murder for this long, it doesn’t seem likely that they’re going to find some new evidence that will solve this case.”
Ten years later, prospects appear even more grim.
Over the past year, the recently convened investigation team has attempted to reach out to new sources — particularly Yale alumni who were familiar with Jovin — to get testimony from people who may have knowledge of the incident but did not report it immediately. The team has also followed up on items from the original case.
Clark said in an interview this week that the detectives have uncovered information that is “in some sense is new,” but declined to specify what the information was.
On Wednesday, John Mannion, a retired state police officer who is heading up the investigative team, reiterated that the team has “nothing great, sorry to say.” The investigators are, however, having some evidence re-examined at the state police lab, he added.
“The investigation continues on,” Mannion said. “We continue to do the small things.”
The investigators released two public requests for information this summer, but both requests were based on information that had been in the Jovin case file for years.
The team is trying to identify the “someone” Jovin referred to in an e-mail she sent at 9:02 p.m. on the night of her death. The investigators also hung posters in the East Rock neighborhood with a sketch of “a physically fit and athletic looking white male with defined features, 20 to 30 years of age, with well groomed blond or dark blond hair” seen running near where Jovin was stabbed.
Clark declined to comment on whether the poster has produced any leads.
“Everyone is a suspect and no one is a suspect,” he said, echoing the motto the team has taken since its inception.
Although the murder stunned campus at the time, all five students interviewed yesterday at breakfast in Davenport were not familiar with Suzanne Jovin: none of them recognized her name.
But Jovin has not been forgotten by the dining hall workers who knew and worked alongside her: She was a student worker in the dish room of the dining hall, a common job at the time.
Davenport dining hall worker Pat McGloin said she remembered Jovin as a hardworking employee and “a beautiful human being.”
“She was an amazing worker. Her work ethic was unbelievable. Everything had to be perfect,” McGloin said Wednesday.
Jovin’s former classmates spoke fondly of her in interviews over the last week.
“She was just a really nice person who went out of her way to help others,” Risa David ’99 said, noting Jovin’s volunteer work with disabled children.
Jacob Bittner ’99 remembered Jovin as smiling, energetic and sweet.
“My last memory of her was leading a blood drive,” Bittner said. “I signed up to give blood — and I had to go to football practice — this beautiful girl in the dining hall asked me to. She always had a smile on.”
“For me, it’s hard to imagine that it happened,” he added. “She was such a nice girl. Who would ever want to do something like this to her?”
Bill Hinners, a cook in Davenport at the time, said the evening Jovin was killed, everyone in the Davenport community was in tears. It was, he said, “one of the saddest nights of my life.”
McGloin remembers feeling numb. Every year at the vigil in the courtyard, McGloin said, the feelings of that day come back to her.
“I wonder what she would have been, what she would have done,” she said. “We love all the students, but she just stood out.”
University President Richard Levin named the incident as one of the two most difficult of his tenure, on par with a 2003 automobile accident in which four Yale students were killed and five others were injured.
“It was horrendous,” Levin said Wednesday. “It was a terrible campus tragedy, and the murder remains haunting to all of us because the murderer has not been identified.”
A ‘SWEET GIRL’
Every morning, Jovin would enter the Davenport dining hall ready with a joke, desk attendant Joanne Ursini said. Even though “some of them were really lame,” she said with a chuckle, Ursini said she missed Jovin’s jokes, hugs and “twinkling eyes.”
The longtime worker still has everything Jovin gave her — including a scarf Ursini is still too upset to wear — and pictures of the “sweet girl” whose life was taken.
Ursini recalled the day she and Jovin sat together at a table in the dining hall, “poking [fun] at each girl’s shoes that walked by, saying which ones looked good, which ones were ugly.” There was one girl whose shoes Jovin really liked, Ursini recalled.
Jovin told the girl how much she liked her shoes, and the two soon realized they wore the same size. Before breakfast was over, the girl came back to the dining hall with the shoes in a bag, handing them to Jovin.
“And she took them!” Ursini exclaimed.
One picture, in particular, of a dance Jovin attended in Commons stands out in Ursini’s mind — she was wearing those shoes.
Investigators continue to search for new leads in the case and will meet at the state’s attorney’s office today to mull over the case yet again, Mannion said.
“There is a commitment on my behalf to pursue every lead that we can generate,” Mannion said Wednesday.
The peace of mind of the student’s family is a prime motivator for the investigation, University Deputy Secretary Highsmith said. (Jovin’s father declined to comment for this story.)
“Many people here on campus as well as friends and family elsewhere continue to grieve her loss,” said Highsmith, who communicated closely with Jovin’s parents after her death. “It’s just a sad, tragic situation.”
A conviction, she added, “would bring a measure of peace to her family.”
Highsmith expressed hope that even after 10 years, the case might still be solved.
Remarked McGloin: “Every time I read about the case, I hope.”
Greta Stetson, Kaitlin Paulson and Lacey Gonzales contributed reporting.
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|To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1258)||12/8/2008 2:45:13 PM|
|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell|
|Re: 12/4/08 - Yale Daily News: Letter: Be careful when labeling suspects|
Yale Daily News
Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008
Letter: Be careful when labeling suspects
It is a good guess that the News will take note of the 10th anniversary of the still-unsolved Jovin slaying. What I would like to see today or in the near future is a powerful editorial stand by the paper asking why President Levin and the other figures at the top of the Yale hierarchy still refuse to acknowledge the great wrong done to James Van de Velde, and why they still will not act to put things right.
I had my say in the News as a guest columnist last Jan. 17 in a piece titled, “Van de Velde’s innocence ignored by Yale’s higher-ups” — so I feel this matter is now more in your hands than in mine. In any event, a commitment by the News to forcing the issue would be more effective than anything I might do.
I am writing to you in part because at least two of your recent stories on Dean Mary Miller identified Van de Velde ’82 as “a suspect in the murder of Suzanne Jovin ’99.”
Yet the New Haven state’s attorney, as I said in my column in January, announced a year ago that no one — and everyone — is a suspect in the crime.
Please be mindful that the national publicity about Van de Velde as a “person of interest” was enormous at the time he was thrown overboard by Yale. The reputations of other famous persons of interest — Richard Jewell (who did not bomb the Atlanta Olympics), Steven Hatfill (who was not the anthrax terrorist), John and Patsy Ramsey (who did not murder their little daughter) — have been salvaged, but not Van de Velde’s.
In my Hartford Courant magazine Dec. 4, 2005, article “Pride & Prejudice in New Haven,” I told of Kingman Brewster, the most famous Yale president of modern times, and the words surrounding his grave, so very close to the campus: “The presumption of innocence is not just a legal concept. In commonplace terms, it rests on that generosity of spirit which assumes the best, not the worst of a stranger.”
Van de Velde, of course, was no stranger to Yale when he was turned into a pariah by administrators responsible for the greatest moral lapse in the University’s history. You might ask yourselves, “What would Kingman Brewster do?”
Donald S. Connery
The writer is a journalist and the author of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.”
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|To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1259)||12/8/2008 2:45:39 PM|
|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell|
|Re: 12/4/08 - Yale Daily News: Van de Velde: One test can solve the case|
Yale Daily News
Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008
Van de Velde: One test can solve the case
By James Van de Velde
Ten years ago today, one of my Yale senior essay students, Suzanne Jovin, was stabbed and left for dead on a street corner four blocks from where I was living in New Haven. The investigation into her murder became a circus. Yale and the New Haven Police publicly labeled me a suspect in the crime, only to be forced to admit years later that I wasn’t really a suspect and that DNA, fingerprints, a suspicious van seen at the crime, a man seen running from the scene (confirmed as not me) and a complete lack of motive all excluded me.
In the last 12 months of the now 10-year-old investigation, the team of retired detectives handling the cold case has made two curious public pleas for assistance:
¶ Information regarding who Jovin had borrowed books from the day of her death;
¶ Identification of a man seen running into bushes near the crime scene on Whitney Avenue around the time of her murder (seemingly to avoid being seen).
The first very likely has nothing to do with her murder, though whoever it was perhaps should indeed be discerned and cleared. There is no connection necessarily between the books and the crime.
The second is vitally important, except for the fact that these investigators asked residents of the community to try to identify a man from a police sketch 10 years after the event. Even if someone thought it looked like someone he or she recognizes (10 years ago), no legal case could likely be made against the person.
It is disappointing that investigators would first ask people to look at a sketch of a person seen 10 years ago (in a neighborhood which has likely turned over at least once) to try to make identification, rather than perform all DNA testing possible on the evidence at hand. Further still, of course, if the police ever expect to make an arrest, they will require a forensic link, not an eyewitness claim 10 years after the fact. The only hope is strong DNA and forensic testing.
Since 2004, I have been advocating one simple, cutting-edge forensic test that could very well solve the case. It would be definitive and conclusive.
A soda bottle found at the crime scene had both Suzanne’s fingerprint on it and an unidentified palm print. That palm print is deeply suspicious. Whoever that person is, he or she is absolutely someone who needs to be investigated. The same applies to the DNA under Suzanne’s fingernails. But if the two pieces of evidence share the same DNA, it absolutely is the perpetrator.
A match cannot be innocent because, unless the facts are wrong, there is only one extremely unlikely explanation for how an innocent person’s DNA could be both under her fingernail and on the soda bottle. An innocent friend could not have given Suzanne the soda — someone, say, who she also scraped earlier that day — since Suzanne did not have the soda with her at 9:25 that evening. We know this because an eyewitness claims she had no such soda at 9:25.
Assuming Suzanne did in fact go to Krauzner’s convenience store on York Street (the only place where such soda was sold on campus and right on her route home after visiting Phelps Gate, where she was seen last), the only conceivable “innocent” contact who could have placed his or her DNA both on the soda bottle and underneath her fingernail is a Krauzner’s employee who stocked the soda bottle and somehow was also scraped by Suzanne’s fingernail that evening when she visited. Beyond that extremely unlikely scenario, if the two DNA samples match, the case is solved — absent a name.
There are additional forensic tests that could be performed but which have not been. The DNA found in the blood under her fingernails contained a rare marker. Although it may be hard to make a DNA match, if the marker is found in a database, it may lead to the killer as well. A search for the marker, I understand, would require a manual keyboard search. But this search has not been done to date. Such a search should be performed, not only in Connecticut databases, but also in national databases.
A new technology, “touch DNA” (www.bodetech.com), can discern DNA from skin cells left on clothing but cannot be seen by the naked eye. Suzanne’s clothing most likely came in contact with the killer. This new technology should be applied to her clothing.
And another DNA search should be conducted: “familiar searching,” to search for comparable DNA strands in existing justice databanks. Given that the rare marker found in the DNA under Jovin’s fingernails has not been matched, perhaps the individual who left his or her DNA has never been DNA tested. But often a relative has been. If a strand is found close to the one that is sought, the correct person has often been found.
The now-infamous Jovin case is not a mystery: Investigators had DNA, fingerprints, the tip of the murder weapon, several eyewitnesses of a suspicious van seen at the crime scene, an eyewitness of a suspicious man running into bushes nearby at the time of the crime, videotape inside Krauzner’s and electronic key pass information that tracked Jovin’s campus movements and provided a time line. For years, investigators obfuscated, covered up and misled the Yale and New Haven communities to protect themselves and a murderer.
Now, after 10 years, the only chance for this crime to be solved is, like in the infamous 24-year-old New Haven Penney Serra murder case, for a computer to make a match. And for that to happen, DNA testing and searching has to be performed. It is Suzanne’s only hope for justice.
James Van de Velde is a former lecturer of political science at Yale, a former dean of Saybrook College and a former lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Intelligence (Reserves).
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|To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1260)||12/8/2008 2:46:15 PM|
|From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell|
|Re: 12/7/08 - New Haven Register: ‘What ifs’ haunt those near Jovin slaying site|
‘What ifs’ haunt those near Jovin slaying site
Police fliers asking for information about the killing of Suzanne Jovin were once common in the East Rock area. (Register file photo)
Sunday, December 7, 2008 10:37 AM EST
By William Kaempffer, Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — A year ago, a state prosecutor proclaimed that everyone and, at the same time, no one was a suspect as a group of retired state police investigators took a fresh look at the murder of Yale University student Suzanne Jovin.
That’s not the case anymore, although Assistant State’s Attorney James Clark wouldn’t say whether the team is any closer to making an arrest in the cold case that made international headlines.
"There are people we’ve looked at and eliminated but we’re not going to get in a game and tell you who they are," said Clark in a recent telephone interview. "It’s time to include and exclude people who might be the killer."
It was 10 years ago last Thursday that Jovin, 21, a Yale senior and daughter of American scientists working in Germany, was brutally stabbed 17 times in the back and neck and left for dead at a street corner in the upscale East Rock neighborhood.
No one ever was charged, although a former Yale lecturer, Jovin’s senior thesis adviser, was identified as being in a "pool of suspects." James R. Van de Velde, now 48, has been fighting for a decade to clear his name.
DOCUMENT: Van de Velde civil lawsuit
E-MAIL: Van de Velde to the Register
Last week, the student newspaper, the Yale Daily News, ran a front-page article about the anniversary. The university Friday issued a one-sentence statement.
"There’s still a great deal of sadness about her death and hope that the case might yet be solved," said spokeswoman Gila Reinstein.
But, as with everything else, time passes and memories fade. Most undergraduates at Yale now were in grade school when the killing occurred.
Students who spoke to a reporter were only vaguely aware, if at all, of the anniversary. Sophomores Gabrielle Gaule and Ryan Carter, both Chicago natives, were 9 when it happened and didn’t recall much discussion about the crime on campus, they said. Gaule said the name Suzanne Jovin "doesn’t ring a bell."
It was a statement repeated by other undergraduates.
For long-time residents who live near the murder scene, however, memories are still vivid. Some expressed a degree of guilt, driven by what-ifs — what if I had stayed outside a few minutes longer? Or been in the front room instead of at the rear of the house hiding from the drone of a steady stream of traffic?
"I feel very guilty," said Nancy Dennett, who has lived at 189 East Rock Road since 1983, "because we didn’t hear anything. If we were outside, maybe we could have stopped it or seen who was running."
The site where Jovin was slain — the corner of Edgehill and East Rock roads — is in clear view from her son’s bedroom window by his computer, but he wasn’t home that night. Dennett didn’t even realize anything had happened on the unseasonably warm December night until she woke up for her morning run and saw the crime scene tape. She didn’t know it was a murder until she got to work, and someone said, "You live on East Rock Road. Did that happen near your house?"
"I don’t feel proud of not knowing what was going on. I wish I did know. I still pass the spot where she was found," she said. "It’s difficult."
Priscilla Kellert, of 57 Edgehill Road, recalled that she was standing on her front porch, about 20 yards from the murder scene, no more than 15 minutes before the killing. She and her husband had left a Yale hockey game early. He wasn’t feeling well and she dropped him off at home. All was quiet when she returned to Ingalls Rink to pick up the remainder of her group. When she returned, the corner had already been transformed into a crime scene.
"It’s sad, but you always wonder, ‘What if I had only been here 15 more minutes?’" she said.
A decade later, the case remains intriguing. Suzanne O’Malley, an author who investigated the Andrea Yates infanticide case in Texas and, by her account, saved the woman who drowned her five children from death row, came to New Haven Thursday to pay her respects at the Jovin memorial at Davenport College. In a chance encounter at a Starbucks, she told a reporter that the case has piqued her interest, although she had not decided whether it would be her next project.
O’Malley also is a part-time lecturer at Yale.
For Van de Velde and his supporters, there is a cast of villains and victims in the saga.
His life and career was ruined by false accusations and police leaks to the media, he says, and he has for years, without success, pressed police and prosecutors to publicly remove his name as a suspect.
Before returning to his alma mater, the Yale graduate served as a White House appointee in the George H.W. Bush administration in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of a strategic arms control delegation and rose to the rank of lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Intelligence Reserves.
At the time of the killing, he was a lecturer in Yale’s political science department. In the media frenzy that followed, his spring semester classes were canceled and, ultimately, his one-year contract with Yale was not renewed.
In the aftermath, he claims, he was denied various assignments through the Naval Reserves and had others terminated as a direct result of being publicly "branded" a suspect in a notorious murder. Ultimately, his security clearance with the Department of Defense was withdrawn, effectively ending his career as a naval intelligence officer, he said.
Van de Velde sued Yale administrators and city police officers in 2001. The case was dismissed in 2004 but, after a motion to reconsider was granted this year, Van de Velde’s attorney and friend David Grudberg filed a new complaint.
The case is still pending and, on Friday, Grudberg was busy crafting responses to motions attacking the federal complaint.
Among the defendants are Yale President Richard Levin and Richard Brodhead, the former dean of Yale College who now is president of Duke University.
"What is especially disturbing … is that, by refusing to accept any responsibility for their actions, Presidents Levin and Brodhead are positioning themselves as the defenders of Jovin’s murderer, given that no one could likely be arrested and convicted of the crime without the university and city acknowledging branding me and only me a suspect was wrong," Van de Velde said in an e-mail to the New Haven Register.
He has consistently criticized the handling of the investigation, contending that while wrongly focusing on him they let the real killer get away and failed to pursue other leads.
Private investigators were hired by Yale. In 2006, the case was turned over to the state cold-case squad and last year the state announced that four retired state police investigators had taken over.
Clark, the prosecutor assigned to the Jovin case since 2000, said the team has received some useful information from people since it started about 18 months ago.
In that time, the team also has made several public pleas for information. This summer, they released a drawing of a man seen by a motorist running across Whitney Avenue, about two blocks from the killing, in the general time frame.
Then, the investigative team released for the first time details of an e-mail sent by Jovin less than an hour before she was killed. The subject was a classmate’s GRE study materials, which Jovin had borrowed and then lent to "someone," according to the e-mail. Jovin indicated she would retrieve the items and return them to the classmate.
So far, the identities of the classmate and the "someone" remain mysteries.
"We’re still hoping that members of the public will recognize something about what we call the ‘running man,’ the one that was connected to the sketch, and we’re hoping people will bring us whatever information they have."
As for the "someone" mentioned in Jovin’s e-mail, Clark said, "We don’t have any new information on who that is."
Likewise, the source of DNA found under Jovin’s fingernail remains unknown. It was compared to a sample from Van de Velde and was not a match.
Clark said as long as it remains unidentified, investigators don’t know what, if any, significance to attach to it, noting that it could be "completely random or innocent or casual contact."
The investigation, he stressed, is still very active.
"We meet once a week but that doesn’t mean something isn’t happening in between. I would say it is as active as it has been at any time in the last five years," said Clark. As is his custom, he wasn’t inclined to go into specific detail.
"We’ll let you know when there’s somebody we can arrest," he said.
William Kaempffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 789-5727.
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