To the Editor:
James Van de Velde’s ’82 professional association with Yale University has culminated in a bitter lesson for both. Acting on false information, the New Haven Police Department and Yale named Van de Velde as one of a “pool of suspects” in the brutal December 1998 killing of Yale undergraduate Suzanne Jovin ’99.
Though no charges had been filed, Yale preemptorily dropped Van de Velde as a lecturer and stood well back as this alumnus and former dean of Saybrook College was hung out to dry. Almost three years of “intensive investigation” by the New Haven Police Department have failed to uncover any evidence that implicates Van de Velde or anybody else.
The latest development, reported in the Yale Daily News (“Police Want DNA Samples In Jovin Case,” 10/29), is the announcement by Connecticut State’s Attorney Michael Dearington that DNA samples will now be collected from the victim’s male friends and acquaintances and, oh by the way, that the sample voluntarily supplied by Van de Velde to Yale’s private investigator, Andy Rosenzweig, didn’t match that found under Jovin’s fingernails.
It’s alarming and pathetic that a private investigator had to assume control of the high profile investigation of a capital crime because negligent and incompetent public actors screwed up at every conceivable opportunity. And though their investigation points to anybody but Van de Velde, authorities steadfastly refuse to exonerate him formally.
Van de Velde is justifiably angered by the impact on his life and career. But he readily acknowledges that the damage to the investigation is a far more serious concern and that Jovin’s family and friends have sustained a far greater loss.
There’s plenty of blame to go around here. New Haven should admit its mistake and formally exonerate Van de Velde. Yale should acknowledge that its rush to judgment and eagerness to distance itself from Van de Velde was both irresponsible and disloyal, and that its actions could only be construed as an indictment.
The Yale community, faculty and student body, ought now to demand that Chief State’s Attorney John Bailey assume responsibility for the case. If the Jovin case is ever to be solved it must be wrested from those who plainly have botched the assignment.
November 2, 2001
The writer is a private resident in Pennsylvania.