Nearly eight years after Suzanne Jovin ’99 was found stabbed to death in her quiet East Rock neighborhood, authorities have officially classified the unsolved murder as a cold case.
Officials have decided to transfer the unsolved case to the cold case unit of the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office in hopes that a fresh review might lead to an arrest after years of inconclusive investigation. The decision, announced by the CSAO in a press release last Thursday, will allow the cold case unit to take over work previously handled by the Yale and New Haven police departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several private investigators.
Jovin, who was pursuing a double major in political science and international studies, was found dead the evening of Dec. 4, 1998.
Michael Dearington, chief prosecutor for the CSAO, said the decision to transfer the case was not easy but that after eight years of investigation, the NHPD and the YPD had come no closer to making an arrest.
But Dearington said that despite some media reports claiming that the state is giving up, the transfer signifies that the law enforcement agencies that had overseen case hope an arrest might still be possible.
“If we felt it was a lost cause we wouldn’t refer it to another agency,” he said. “We feel that it is entirely possible that a fresh review by another experienced agency could result in the discovery of information that we didn’t find that could lead to an arrest.”
In the months following the arrest, the investigation focused on James Van de Velde ’82, who was Jovin’s senior thesis advisor at the time. Although Van de Velde has not been officially cleared, subsequent forensic testing showed that DNA evidence found under Jovin’s fingernails did not match Van de Velde’s.
Van de Velde’s attorney, David Grudberg ’82, was unavailable for comment Thursday, but told several local media outlets that his client was doing well, despite the damage the investigation caused to his reputation. Following the murder, the University canceled Van de Velde’s classes for the spring term of 1999 and chose not to renew his contract. After leaving Yale, Van de Velde took a post at the Pentagon that required a top security clearance. He settled a defamation lawsuit with Quinnipiac University in 2004 and currently has a similar suit pending against several Yale administrators.
YPD Chief James Perrotti declined to comment on the investigation, but Lt. Michael Patten said the department will attempt to aid state investigators.
“Our detectives were working on the case,” Patten said, “So [the Attorney’s Office] very well might need to meet with them.”
Still, Patten said the investigation is now out of the hands of both the YPD and the NHPD.
Many cases that have been transferred to the cold case unit, Dearington said, were subsequently solved.
In one case, Dearington said, the unit was able to arrest the suspect of a murder that dated back 29 years. In May 2002, a New Haven Superior Court jury found Waterbury resident Edward Grant guilty of the murder of 21-year-old Concetta Serra, who was found stabbed to death in a New Haven parking garage in July 1973.
Dearington said the Jovin family, who reside in Germany, has been notified of the transfer. David Rosen, the Jovins’ attorney, could not be reached for comment.