Posted Friday 10 p.m. A team of four retired Connecticut State Police detectives is set to begin a new investigation into the Dec. 1998 murder of Suzanne Jovin ’99, Assistant State’s Attorney James G. Clark announced Friday.
The Jovin Investigation Team, which was formed in June by State’s Attorney Michael Dearington but not made public until today, plans to “approach the case as if it were brand new,” Clark said. In addition to considering existing evidence, the Team will also look for new information about the case, he said.
Clark said the Team will make “no assumptions” about the murder or those involved, including suspects previously investigated by the police.
“No person is a suspect in the crime, and everyone is a suspect in the crime,” he said.
Jovin was found on the ground near the intersection of East Rock Road and Edgehill Avenue on the evening of Dec. 4, 1998. Classmates reported spotting Jovin, who was found with 17 stab wounds in her head, neck and back, on Old Campus roughly half an hour before her body was discovered.
Before the state’s Cold Case Unit took over the case in 2006, Jovin’s murder was being investigated by the New Haven Police Department.
When asked why the formation of the Team was not unveiled until today, John Mannion, the leader of the investigation, said simply the State’s Attorney’s office had put serious consideration into the timing of the announcement and that it thought now was an “appropriate” time to reveal the new team.
Clark declined to answer detailed questions about the investigation.
As a result of the Team’s blank-slate approach, James Van de Velde ’82 — Jovin’s senior-thesis advisor and the only person ever named by NHPD investigators as a suspect in the case — is no longer an official suspect. The NHPD never previously retracted his status as a suspect.
Van de Velde has said he should be exonerated from suspect status because DNA evidence scraped from underneath Jovin’s fingernails did not match samples he provided to the police. Now that the case is being investigated under “no assumptions,” Clark said the Team will not make a determination about whether the DNA evidence is related to the murder until it is linked to an individual.
Van de Velde, who recently criticized the state’s Cold Case Unit of not doing enough to resolve the case, wrote letters to Dearington in August describing avenues for investigation that the former professor said were being ignored. In September, he sent copies of the letters to the New Haven Register, which published a story about his efforts to clear his name on Nov. 12.
Van de Velde told the News in mid-November that he had not received a response from Dearington.
Clark said Friday he thinks criticism of the Cold Case Unit is unwarranted because the unit deals with a large number of cases and has a limited amount of resources.
Mannion has been with the State Police for 21 years, including five as the commanding officer of the Central Major Crimes Unit. Patrick Gaffney, who has worked as a detective and sergeant in the CMCU for 15 years; Richard Wardell, who has 12 years of detective experience and 22 years in law enforcement; and Joseph Sudol, a former detective for the Central Major Crime Squad, will aid in the investigation, according to a press release issued by the Team.
The four officers will be paid one dollar a year for their work, according to the press release.
“It would be next to impossible to assemble a group more capable of investigating this terrible crime, even if the State had unlimited funds,” Clark said.
The Team will operate independently of other law enforcement agencies and will report to Clark. Team members will have access to the resources of the NHPD, Yale Police Department, State Police Department, FBI and State’s Attorney’s Office, Clark said.
There is a $150,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Jovin’s murderer. The state offered a $50,000 reward in March 1999, and two years later the University committed an extra $100,000 .
The Jovin Investigation Team can be directly contacted by phone at (203) 676-1575 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.