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   PastimesMurder Mystery: Who Killed Yale Student Suzanne Jovin?


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From: SJ Cold Case7/27/2016 9:21:36 AM
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The IP address(es) I would be looking for posted here in 2000 quite a bit. The last activity on SI was in 2003.
The person has moved to another state, so we would be looking for closed accounts.

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From: SJ Cold Case7/28/2016 1:04:20 PM
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If Yale just wants Suzanne's murder story to go away

and police don't want to admit mistakes

and quoted witness statements are unexpected

(noting sensitivity and possible deception),

What is to be done?

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To: SJ Cold Case who wrote (1372)7/28/2016 3:58:05 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
 
What is to be done?
Good question. If you read the archives, you'll see a bunch of us have suggested what needs to be done, but to no avail. Heck, I've even offered to raise whatever money it takes to pay for the cost of implementing our suggestions.

Battling both Yale and the State of CT (not just New Haven) has proven to be like scaling Everest wearing a wet bathing suit. Only when an entity of equal or greater stature applies pressure on them will there ever be any incentive for cooperation-- and only because "covering up" is quite often these days viewed worse than the actual accusations, not because they truly want the truth to be known.

IMHO of course. :)

- Jeff

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1373)7/29/2016 11:06:14 AM
From: SJ Cold Case
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"Only when an entity of equal or greater stature applies pressure on them will there ever be any incentive for cooperation--"

I wonder if anyone at Harvard Law would be interested?

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From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell11/5/2016 12:38:07 AM
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In memory of Michelle McNamara (wife of actor and comedian Patton Oswalt)

Back in 2009, I had the pleasure of spending some time talking and emailing with true-crime writer Michelle McNamara, wife of actor/comedian Patton Oswalt. Every so often I would send her updates. Michelle passed away suddenly in her sleep back in April. My condolences.

Michelle's story: truecrimediary.com

More about her life: latimes.com

- Jeff

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From: Tom Clarke9/26/2017 4:57:18 PM
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Strong Push On To Solve 1998 Slaying Of Yale Student Suzanne Jovin

courant.com

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To: Tom Clarke who wrote (1376)9/26/2017 8:37:30 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 1389
 
Re: 9/26/2017 - Hartford Courant: Strong Push On To Solve 1998 Slaying Of Yale Student Suzanne Jovin

Strong Push On To Solve 1998 Slaying Of Yale Student Suzanne Jovin

Yale student Suzanne Jovin was stabbed to death on Dec. 4, 1998 in the East Rock section of New Haven. Nineteen years after the slaying, there is renewed attention being paid to the unsolved case.

Dave Altimari and David Owens Contact Reporters

The unsolved 19-year-old murder of Yale student Suzanne Jovin is getting renewed attention by Connecticut law enforcement, with an assistant state’s attorney spending eight hours a week with a team of detectives working to solve the high-profile case.

Details of the efforts are contained in a Freedom of Information hearing officer’s ruling that the New Haven police file should not be released. In testimony before the hearing officer, Assistant State’s Attorney Marcia Pillsbury revealed that she is working on the case and that a resolution is possible.

Sources familiar with the case said investigators have taken several steps including:

  • Resubmitting Jovin’s clothing to the state forensic laboratory to do new DNA testing called touch DNA on the inside of the sleeves of her shirt and other clothing in hopes her assailant may have brushed against her during the murder.
  • Bringing in the FBI to work on the case, although it is unclear what federal authorities are doing.
  • Traveling across the country to re-interview some witnesses from the original investigation as well as classmates of Jovin who had not been interviewed before.
  • Hiring a hypnotist to interview a key witness who may have seen Jovin walking only minutes before she was murdered.

  • Two New York City documentary filmmakers had submitted the FOI request to New Haven Police and Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane’s office seeking access to the Jovin file. Pillsbury testified at the hearing to explain the case is not dormant and that releasing the files now could hinder the probe.

    FOI hearing officer Lisa Fein Siegel denied the request to release the files based on Pillsbury’s assertions and the testimony of New Haven police officers and the state’s lead forensic science examiner. Siegel ruled that “a prospective law enforcement action is a reasonable possibility.”

    “It is found that witnesses continue to be interviewed, evidence examined, and ever more precise DNA testing continues to be focus of the investigation,” Siegel wrote. the full state Freedom of Information Commission will vote on Siegel’s ruling Wednesday.

    Pillsbury testified for more than an hour but refused to provide any relevant details of the case past they are working on it. She wouldn’t answer questions about how many investigators are working on the case, wouldn’t say whether she has interviewed any witnesses and wouldn’t answer whether she thought there’d be a prosecution within the next six months.

    On Dec. 4, 1998, Jovin, 21, was discovered face down with 17 stab wounds in her back and head near the corner of Edgehill and East Rock roads by a doctor out for a walk who heard her screams and ran to her assistance.

    She was stabbed so hard the tip of the knife was embedded in her skull. The knife used in the murder has never been recovered. Investigators believe Jovin was killed shortly before 10 p.m.

    Jovin was last seen walking out of Phelps Gate on the Yale campus at about 9:25 p.m. after she had dropped off a key to a van she had borrowed for a dinner involving the Best Buddies group where she volunteered.

    About 10 minutes later, "multiple" witnesses said they heard a couple arguing in front of the apartment building at 750 Whitney Ave., and later in back of it, although it is unclear if that was Jovin. Witnesses reported hearing more arguing and then screams at the intersection of East Rock and Edgehill roads.

    Days after the slaying, New Haven police leaked to the local newspaper that James Van de Velde, one of Jovin's professors and her senior thesis adviser, was in a "pool of suspects."

    Yale University eventually canceled Van de Velde's classes and declined to bring him back as a professor. Van de Velde has maintained his innocence and has been highly critical of the New Haven Police Department investigation and of Yale.

    He filed a lawsuit against New Haven police and Yale which were settled in 2013. Van de Velde, who after the settlement began teaching at Johns Hopkins University, received at least $200,000.

    For years, police believed that DNA found under Jovin’s fingernails belonged to her killer. It was more than 11 years after the homicide that the forensic laboratory determined the sample was contaminated and that the DNA actually belonged to the lab worker who had initially worked on the case.

    At one point prosecutors allowed two private investigators hired by Yale access to the file so they could do their own private investigation.

    Subsequently, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane hired four retired state police detectives to re-investigate the case. The retired detectives found a witness who said she saw a man running from the direction of the crime scene around the time of the slaying.

    The woman told investigators the man had "blondish hair, chiseled features and was wearing dark clothes and a loose-fitting green-colored jacket.." The state hired a forensic artist to draw a sketch of the man and police distributed a flier with that sketch throughout the neighborhood and to Yale alumni groups hoping for a match.

    The team of retired detectives were disbanded more than a year ago by Kane.

    courant.com

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    To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1377)9/27/2017 11:19:01 AM
    From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
       of 1389
     
    Re: 9/7/2017 - CT FOI Docket #FIC 2016-0865





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    To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1378)10/5/2017 1:06:45 AM
    From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
       of 1389
     
    It’s been a while since I’ve posted any commentary here. So a few updates…

    1. When was Suzanne Jovin last seen alive?

    From day one, we were told, or at least led to believe, Jovin was last seen “walking north on College St”. That implied she was taking a roundabout way home. Per Mannion, in 2008, “It is unclear... whether Jovin was walking somewhere, waiting for someone or pausing to admire the holiday lights along the New Haven Green.” (source: yaledailynews.com )

    Phelp’s Gate, which Jovin had just passed through from Yale’s Old Campus to College St, is perhaps the most active spot to meet people for rides at all of Yale. Whereas these days people just say “text me when you are on your way”, back then most people typically chose times rounded to 15 minutes, e.g. 9:15, 9:30, 9:45, and so on. Given Jovin returned the keys to the Yale car she had borrowed at the police substation within Phelp’s Gate slightly before 9:30pm, it is reasonable to assume that if she indeed were meeting someone, it would have been around 9:30pm.

    If Jovin did indeed meet someone around 9:30pm, it likely means she never made it to Krauszers to buy a Fresca. This implies someone gave it to her. It also means we now don’t need to factor in the time it would have taken her to walk to Krauszers, enter, buy and pay for a soda, then exit, nor the time it would take a vehicle to maneuver from this particular location to where she was found dead.

    Specifically, it means a vehicle would likely have either gone directly from College St (which is later called Prospect St) to the intersection of East Rock, and then a block down the hill to the corner of Edgehill, or cut over to Whitney Ave and the intersection of East Rock, and then a block up the hill to East Rock. Both ways are about 2 miles, which is about eight minutes of driving. If we factor in four minutes for pickup and parking, we have a 9:42pm arrival. This gives us 11 minutes to spare before she is likely murdered.



    2. What do we now know about the vehicle?

    Recall that all the original reports talked about a tan/brown van being the vehicle of interest. We then found out, conveniently, the NHPD had actually secretly impounded a tan van that had been recently painted white. Many years later, in 2014, we learned that witnesses had seen a “light-colored, mid-sized four-door sedan parked at the curb on East Rock Road near Edgehill Road… the driver’s side front door was open and the headlights and interior lights were on… a man and a woman standing on the sidewalk near the light-colored vehicle.” (Source: nhregister.com ).

    I know for a fact the NHPD truly did think this tan van in custody might have been owned by the killer or a relative. It had recently been painted white, and the owner’s brother was attending Yale. The NHPD even DNA tested the latter. Apparently, this was wishful thinking or else it’s hard to rationalize how a “van” could be confused with a “four-door sedan”. In any event, we are now talking about a sedan, not a van.

    3. How about the man and woman arguing?

    In 2014, the State’s Attorney’s office revealed that “witnesses have reported hearing a man and a woman arguing shortly before the murder, first at the entrance to an apartment building at 750 Whitney Ave (That’s at the corner of East Rock Road)… A witness has told investigators about seeing a white man and white woman leaving that front entrance during the argument between the couple at about 9:30 p.m… Another witness living on the rear side of that apartment building also heard an argument between a woman and another person… This argument appears to be a continuation of the argument heard on the front side of 750 Whitney Ave. minutes before. Shortly after, she heard screams on East Rock Road… The perception of these witnesses is that these two people knew each other. It was like a domestic argument.” Then, on the next corner, the intersection of East Rock and Edgehill (about a 4-5 minute walk up the hill): “A nearby resident or residents reported hearing a woman shouting, ‘Why are you doing this to me? How can you do this?’” Source: Message 30346489



    Putting it all together

    If we assume all of these accounts are related, and the arguing couple were Jovin and her killer, it implies that the killer parked his vehicle somewhere in the vicinity of 750 Whitney Ave. They go to the doorstep of the building, get into an argument, and rather than go inside, end up walking up East Rock Rd, still arguing. They get as far as the intersection of Edgehill whereupon the argument turns fatal for Jovin.

    But, wait, if true, how do we jive this with the four door sedan parked at this corner with the front door open and interior lights on? Did this couple begin their journey here, walk all the way down the hill, to the front door of 750 Whitney, then all the way back up? Not likely. Then which scenario is more likely?

    Let’s now factor in the running man. If this person was indeed the killer running from the scene, and Jovin was dead, then obviously if the vehicle were at the corner of East Rock and Edgehill were his, it would have still been there when Jovin was found. It was not. Of course, we can’t rule out an accomplice, or at least a third person sitting in the vehicle, who then might have driven it away. Regardless, whether the killer or an accomplice drove the vehicle away, the couple that found Jovin – who heard a scream when half-way up East Rock -- never reported seeing anyone run or drive past them. And, recall, while a man and woman were seen near this vehicle, this report did not have them as arguing with one another. All of this makes it very hard to conclude this tan vehicle was that of the killer.

    So, does this now imply the couple at 750 Whitney had to be Jovin and her killer? Well… recall this arguing was said to have started at 9:30pm. That’s around the time Jovin was last seen alive—two miles away. Of course, if we change this to, say, 9:42, then that’s a different story. But can we? 9:40? 9:38?

    At this point, I’m not sure we have a choice but to discount the tan vehicle. The problem is, I’ve never ever heard anybody come up with any reason for Jovin to have been driven all the way to 750 Whitney. Was this related to the GRE materials Jovin has planned to have retrieved by the next day? If so, then one theory is that Jovin had arranged for a driver to take her there to get them. Given Jovin had said she was tired, it’s unlikely she had arranged to be driven to a party, not to mention she nobody ever reported seeing her at a party, not to mention most Yale undergrads do not live this far off campus. But as no GRE materials were found anywhere near the murder scene, implying that if said retrieval were truly the intent, the mission was apparently aborted. Hmm…

    Or maybe her driver was there to give Jovin the GRE materials, and perhaps offered her a ride back to her apartment. She gets in, he starts to drive away, says there’s something he wants to talk to her about, and perhaps she agrees to “go for a short ride and talk” rather than do the talking back at her place. Perhaps they continue “north on College St” which would take them to East Rock Rd. They turn right, down East Rock Rd, and Jovin gets a bit agitated and asks the driver to stop. He does, at the intersection of Edgehill. He convinces her to get back in the car, she does, and they continue down the hill to Whitney where she gets agitated again, so they stop again. This time she walks to the front door of 750 Whitney to get away from him, they argue some more, and she then decides to start walking home, back up East Rock Rd. He follows her, they argue some more, and he eventually kills her when they reach Edgehill again.

    But wait, where is the soda bottle in all this? If Jovin were given the soda, as this scenario dictates, it implies she was given it by the driver in the car. Are we to assume Jovin is casually sipping on a soda in the car, then out of the car-- through all this arguing? If she were given the soda by the driver, which likely would have been when she got into the car at about 9:32, that’s about 20 minutes of possessing the soda such that it is found in the hedges near her body. Seems rather unlikely.

    Or maybe this arguing couple lived at 750 Whitney Ave, left their apartment at 9:30pm, well before Jovin and her killer had arrived, got into their car, and left—not having anything to do with the murder. Jovin and her killer parked “somewhere near” East Rock and Edgehill, went for a walk on this rare warm night in December, and then things took a turn for the worse. Simple as that. Maybe. :)

    - Jeff

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    To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (1379)10/30/2018 1:57:20 PM
    From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
       of 1389
     
    The Jovin murder is now on pretty much every "Top X Unsolved Murders" list out there. Given we are fast approaching the 20th anniversary of Suzanne's passing, my inbox is once again beginning to fill up. I guess I'm rather easy to find via a Google search.

    First off, I take everyone seriously. Seriously. Unlike the Jovin hotline, or law enforcement in general, which are designed to be one-way communication if you indeed get a reply, I do write back and do engage in conversation.

    Most of what people offer falls into the "Please check out [name]. I get really bad vibes about him. Here is why I think [name] could have been her killer and why he might have done it." On the one hand, they indeed might be right. On the other, if they are indeed right, that means every single one of the other such theories is wrong. In other words, if I were to get 100 such theories, (at least) 99% would have to be wrong if at best one were indeed right. That's really bad odds. So how might one know they are barking up the right tree?

    Work backwards. Start with the notion that absolutely nothing can be disproven (seriously). But just because you can't disprove that I had dinner with aliens in a restaurant on Mars last night doesn't make that claim any more likely to be true. That means if you want to see your idea investigated, you need to provide something meaningful to investigate. In this context, rumors are actually solid gold. If someone allegedly saw something or heard something, that trail that led to you hearing as such can be followed in reverse to see if there is an actual eyewitness behind it.

    =====

    Now some clarifications from what I've been reading and watching:

    1. The murder weapon

    Neither the NHPD, States' Attorney, or Medical Examiner have ever stated publicly what the actual murder weapon was. The sum total of what we think we know is from the 20/20 TV show broadcast: "The medical examiner would later identify only one of the 17 stab wounds as fatal. He would also determine that the murder weapon was a four to five inch nonserrated, carbon steel knife, when he discovered the tip of the blade lodged in the left side of her skull." The FBI for sure did a metallurgy test on the blade, but every attempt I've made to get a copy of it has been blocked.

    I was also told that the person who saw her wounds at the hospital said that some looked like puncture marks, as if from a screwdriver. As you typically don't (even try to) cut someone's throat with a screwdriver, this, at first, implied there may have been two weapons. A four inch blade (below) is quite formidable, let alone a five incher. With or without a screwdriver added to the mix, we are talking serious damage here. Yet, she was found alive, with only one wound being seen as fatal. You would have to think that wound was her throat being cut. Even still, the crime scene was not at all a bloody mess.

    So how do we explain this? Well, this is why I've *speculated* it had to be an X-Acto knife. A broken tip on such a knife would make wounds that resembled those made by a screwdriver. It would explain the lack of blood, only one fatal wound, and why she was even found alive. Sadly, if I had the metallurgy report, I wouldn't have to speculate.



    2. Cop as Killer Theory

    We've never discussed that theory here. In fact, that never ever even occurred to me. Yet it's a topic of major discussion on-line. This is based on the fact that Suzanne's apartment was above a NHPD substation. The hypothesis is that she befriended a policeman who killed her, and that other NHPD officers then went about trying to cover this up. OK, for sure possible. Per above, for sure, nobody can disprove this. But, again, unless someone has an officer in mind, heard rumors this was true, etc., there is nothing (yet) to investigate here.

    3. The "someone" Suzanne lent her borrowed GRE materials to

    The consensus on-line seems to be that the main suspect in her killing is whoever she lent her borrowed GRE materials to. Assuming this were not a random crime, I agree. Recall she did write an email in German saying she had re-lent them to "someone", as opposed to a "friend", "classmate", etc. For some reason the discussion is on whether she indeed knew who this person was, with the consensus being she must have, as who lends something to someone you don't know, and how exactly do you then make plans to retrieve it? Rather, the implication IMO here is that she likely did not know this person well.

    =====

    Subsequent Developments

    I get approached consistently to help people make a TV movie, mini-series, episode, etc. on this case. If the planned story is human interest based, i.e. "he-said, she-said, you decide", I turn it down immediately. That's the bulk of the requests. I did say yes to a project that was supposed to be investigative journalist centric, i.e. that an active effort would be made to solve the crime, not just document it. That started out promising, but I was quickly left in the dark. About all I knew is that they were supposedly getting cooperation from the States' Attorney's office, and therefore making progress. I would nevertheless forward the production crew whatever I found that seemed worth investigating. I'm pretty sure that project is now dead.

    Last year, someone wrote to me that someone they were acquainted with had witnessed the murder. It was an incredibly detailed description, but of course second-hand. I'll say a three things about it: 1) I gave it to the production crew to investigate with the help of the SA's office. I never got any updates. But, then again, law enforcement, as I wrote above, is typically a one-way street. Though, still, given the age of this case and my good faith gesture, this is sad (if not pathetic). 2) The person described as her killer was indeed wearing a "dark colored windbreaker" consistent with what "Billy" is seen wearing in multiple photos taken of him during that time period. 3) Neither I nor anyone else on-line has theorized anything close to what this witness described. Yet it does make perfect sense. On the flip side, because it makes such perfect sense, the "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is" expression comes to mind.

    Stay tuned for more details and further updates on this...

    - Jeff

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