New team looks into Jovin death

A team of four retired Connecticut State Police detectives has been investigating the Dec. 1998 murder of Suzanne Jovin ’99 for the past seven months, 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 Friday, 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.

As a result of the team’s blank-slate approach, former political science professor James Van de Velde ’82 — Jovin’s senior-thesis advisor and the only person ever named by New Haven Police Department investigators as a suspect in the case — is no longer an official suspect. The NHPD had previously never retracted his status as a suspect.

This marks the second time outside investigators have been assigned to the Jovin murder case. In 2000, the University hired former New York City police officers Patrick Harnett and Andrew Rosenzweig to investigate the slaying, and Dearington allowed the two men access to case files.

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 she was discovered. Jovin was pronounced dead soon after.

When asked why the formation of the team was not unveiled until Friday, investigation leader John Mannion said simply that 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.

In 2001, Van de Velde filed a defamation lawsuit against the University and the city of New Haven for unfairly leaking his name as a prime suspect in the homicide. The Federal portion of his lawsuit was dismissed by a United States District Court in 2004, but Van de Velde said in November that the judge’s ruling was “so incomprehensible” that he has since filed a motion to reconsider.

“I am delighted to hear State Attorneys Dearington and Clark admit after nine years that I’m not a suspect in this crime,” Van de Velde said in an e-mail. “We will present this statement to the judge ruling on my lawsuit against Yale and the City to show that both wrongly and foolishly labeled me and caused irreparable damage to my reputation and career — not to mention to the investigation.”

Van de Velde has criticized the University — and University President Richard Levin, who is a defendant in Van de Velde’s lawsuit, in particular — for botching the investigation at its outset and failing to take a more proactive role in solving the case.

“We continue to think of Suzanne’s family and their great loss,” Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith said in an e-mail. “While nothing can undo that, we join them in hoping that this renewed investigation can yield information that will solve this tragic case.”

Before the Jovin Investigation Team began its work in June, the state’s Cold Case Unit had been in charge of the case since 2006, when it took over from the NHPD.

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 in 2001. 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 said Sunday he is glad that police have recommitted to resolving the case.

“I am also pleased that the state agrees it is time to make a fresh start in finding Suzanne Jovin’s killer, though I believe the city and Yale’s initial actions hurt these efforts perhaps irreparably,” Van de Velde said in an e-mail.

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 $150,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Jovin’s murderer. The state offered a $50,000 reward in March 1999, and the University committed an extra $100,000 two years later.


  • Anonymous

    It looks like a bad case of second guessing yourselves. Maybe it's just ole
    Paranoia on the part of the University as all roads in this investigation lead to Yale.
    is there an issue with the police being cowards and afraid of Yale's wrath or the other way around. If i told the truth and mentioned peculiar incidents that are being begged by the press and police corps will even I be made a suspect?
    The surrounding community read like a who's who of power political folks.
    you know Branford hires a security force,especially at Pine Orchard.
    Why post this article? is it another Eulogy for Susanne,let's light a candle but not investigate the crime..

  • Anonymous

    Jovin was killed far from campus in an area of multi-million dollar estates that sees little to no crime in a typical year. Also, she was seen on campus so soon before that it was very unlikely she walked or jogged up to the crime site. So, it's no wonder that conspiracy theories (having to do with Jovin's senior essay about the CIA and Van De Velde's involvement in covert assassinations) abound here. Something is clearly very unusual about this case -- see the article in Vanity Fair Magazine that came out a couple of months after the incident for more background. Maybe the university should consider hiring an international team of experts with CIA backgrounds, rather than a group of retired detectives.

  • Anonymous

    i think it's one mile from Campus to where she was mortally wounded.."unlikely the police say that she jogged" but not impossible or you can't rule it out,you should'nt be ruling out anything.
    what if that office where she dropped the keys off are off in their time ?"but the soda bottle"they say it had to be purchased via auto due to the time frame.
    maybe it was there at the scene,on the ground.
    it does'nt make sense to leave college street hop in a vehicle go up to York street..that'll take 10-20 minutes in a car on a Friday nite.
    The CIA ? leave the conspiracy theories for Rock Stars that were outspoken in Gov'nt doings….
    yes an International team of experts is a very good idea,
    this attractive girl attracted some one's attention while jogging or speed walking.
    maybe it's a hunch.
    is that office on College street where the Union office is ? security ? hospitality security also ? did the Union locate these New York City Det's ?unite here is there and NYC is the central locale.

  • Anonymous

    It was closer to two miles from campus where Jovin was found. Based on the distance, the timeline, her attire, what she told friends, etc., yes, you can definitely rule out jogging. The soda was likely purchased on Krauszer's on York St since she didn't have it when spotted on Old Campus. Because the police focused on the wrong person, the video surveillance at Krauszers was never checked and no effort was made to find possible witnesses in that area. College St to York via Elm is not possible because it's one way the wrong way. Conspiracy theories only make sense here if you choose to ignore the facts.

  • Anonymous

    well we suppose your right..
    She got picked up at College street drove down to Chapel st.took a right ,proceeded up to York st down to Krauzers where the vehicle waited(like to know just where they waited).Continued down Elm over to Edghill and East Rock rd. where she was killed..i guess that would fit into a timeline,15-30 minutes ? Friday nite is not an easy travel time,but yeah we suppose it's possible..The Press never mentioned her attire,,why go up to Krauzers for one can or bottle of soda?
    unless they picked someone up..
    not checking the film at Krauzers ?
    that's either a lie or the worst incompetence one can imagine.
    or publicly admitting she was not at Krauzers would be an embarrasment.
    maybe the police just can't leak out too much info,but not when it came to James Van Der Velt.
    definitely rule out jogging ?i still don't see it..She could'nt have left college street walked to Prospect & College Or just call it that Woolsey Hall corner ,used that Dorm and college as a cut thru and come out on Edwards street?
    Edwards street down St.Ronan to Van Der W's house run into someone ,Picked up the bottle in the street to defend herself..
    but hey,thats their job to investigate All avenues..
    how long would that walk/jog take ?
    the police would get upset if any other mention of a suspect or questioning of their timeline.

  • Anonymous

    The lovely Susanne Jovin was wearing a black evening gown designed by Vera Wang.
    Classic black stillettos by Gore Vidal.
    accentuated with pearlnecklace on loan from the British Art Museum.
    and holding a bottle of Fresca in one hand and Lennon's autobiography in the other.

  • Anonymous

    Did'nt this girl attend a Christmas Party back on Campus before dropping the keys of the vehicle off ?
    Was there another Christmas Party that she might have planned to attend ?
    i know lots of Dept's are located on Prospect street that DO host Christmas parties for affiliated students,teachers,friends..Maybe (maybe)
    there was a party in the area that might of had an inebriated guest or someone asked to leave..Was there a Democratic Town Chair committee meeting in any of the important people's homes ? i know for a fact they have those in people of importance's homes throughout New Haven
    ..lots of cars could even had attracted someone from outside of these circles

  • Anonymous

    Are the investigating officers going to wait until the Lawsuit is over and then catch the killer of Miss Jovin ?
    Was all of this misleading of the public and press done by the police to freeze up this case and protect the actual killer ?

    i'll tell you about one strange incident that happened over here..
    it was about 2002 (i know Rizzo's electrical was doing the street signs),one summer saturday morning i left for the grocery store about 7:15 am as i always do for the past 10 years and as i stepped out i noticed a lot of clothing.

    under our pine tree ,around it,ON it were clothings and other belongings ,even household belongings..
    ahh shit i said ,a squater ,that's all i need now..i remember another issue involving developers and said to myself "another filthy trick of developers. i went and got 2 lawn bags
    i knocked on my landlady's door and informed her of the pile of crap,even hung with a hangar on a tree..
    She calls the police ,at my suggestion,she did ,which surprised me at first and then did'nt as this could be serious…i changed my mind about removing this as a cop was on the way.

    He showed up and i went on to the store
    i returned and he was still there,about an hour and a half later ,he said it looked like someone's stuff and found a name..i later found out from Land Lady that it belonged to a guy across the street and he came up from Florida and his car was broken into…3 days later some dude was walking around livid pissed.
    i tried to talk to the dude but he walked away..Either psychopathic or just angry.
    Now shortly after that i noticed the Jamaican around and his buddy was breaking into cars around here
    i called the police on this jamaican and he said a name that sounded like a cops and they drove off..jamaican moved from Bishop street after,this is edwards street.
    I since have trimmed the pine so as to see under it.
    i shit when i thought of the lady resident coming home at 9:30 the nite before and not noticing anything,God what if she ran into this guy ?
    that sort of thing can scare your tenants away…