To the Editor:
I would like to thank the Yale Daily News for its continued efforts to bring attention to the unsolved murder of Yale undergraduate student Suzanne Jovin (“The Unusual Suspect,” YDN Magazine, 2/5), despite efforts by Yale and the NHPD to let it fade into history and secrecy.
For the record, however, I would like to correct a few errors in the article:
1) As I have stated on the record numerous times, I spent the evening of Dec. 4, 1999, watching “Friends” — on videotape.
2) I learned at 12:07 p.m. (not “after midnight” that evening), the day after the murder of Suzanne Jovin, that Jovin was the victim of a murder. In fact, the e-mail was a message from a student forwarding a message written that morning by the dean of Ezra Stiles College to all students in her college informing them that a Yale student had been the victim of a murder. (The police have had this e-mail message since the beginning of the investigation.) Since this student knew that Jovin was one of my students, she knew I would want to learn this information.
3) The New Haven and Yale University investigation did not “eventually” lead to me. The opposite is true. Police and Yale sources first announced me as a suspect five days after the crime in December 1998 and announced me as a suspect again in January 1999 and THEN conducted an investigation that revealed absolutely nothing to link me to the crime. Subsequent to having been so publicly labeled, the police admitted that they are: a) searching for a tan or brown van seen at the crime scene at the time of the crime (March 2001); b) trying to match DNA found under Jovin’s fingernails that did not match my DNA, her boyfriend’s, the emergency workers who tried to save her or numerous others who have voluntarily (and not so voluntarily) given DNA samples; and that c) there are “10, no 5, no 10” suspects in the crime, according to former Chief of Police Melvin Wearing (November 2001).
4) Former WFSB-TV New Haven Bureau Chief Barbara Pinto told her roommate, WTNH-TV weekend anchor Kristen Cusato, sometime in the late spring of 1997, that I had asked during a phone call her how her “fan” was doing on a hot evening. Since she told her roommate that I had not been inside her bedroom, Pinto speculated to Cusato that I must have visited the Branford Town Library situated across the street from her home, walked up to the second floor to look into her house across the street, into the second floor of her home, and back into her back bedroom and noticed that she had a fan. (In fact, Pinto had shown me her bedroom in January 1997 when I first visited her house for a dinner date.) Cusato told this ludicrous story to friends and others at WTNH, one of whom called the police on me after seeing me give a one-sentence tribute to Jovin on WVIT the day after her murder. The naive New Haven Police in charge of the investigation did not consider the possibility that Pinto made this story up, perhaps to assuage her sense of embarrassment after I had dated her and moved on (figuratively and literally). Since the detectives had a relationship with Pinto, who used to play tennis with them to elicit information, perhaps they were predisposed to believe such a laughable story. I did no such thing. On a hot evening I asked how her fan was doing as a witty way to ask how she was coping with the heat. Pinto said nothing to me at the time of this phone call and continued to date me until I moved to California in August 1997. Yet this is the alleged ‘stalking’ rumor so often cited by those who work to keep Jovin’s murderer free and my life destroyed. Further, Pinto told her story to her former friends of the New Haven detective bureau on Sunday, Dec. 6, 1998 (not “(b)etween the afternoon of the 7th and the evening of the 8th.”) Further still, I had never considered Pinto my ‘girlfriend,’ and certainly never referred to her as such. In fact, I think that was the problem.
5) I was not “fired” from Yale, though I was relieved from teaching the spring term courses I was contractually obliged to teach and “reassigned” to “research,” though I was hired as a lecturer. My contract was subsequently not renewed.
James Van de Velde
February 15, 2004