Introduction to the Crime:
It was a Friday night in the beginning of December 1998…Twenty-one year old Suzanne Jovin, a German born senior at Yale University, majoring in political science was brutally murdered; struck down in the prime of life when she had all her ducks in a row. Suzanne was stabbed 17 times in the back, in the neck and with her throat slit….a very PERSONAL murder! Her body was fully clothed; jewelry in tact, with one crumpled dollar bill in her pocket. She was found lying on her stomach, feet facing the road and upper torso in a grassy area. Apparently, her wallet was found in her room. There was no mention of sexual assault. At nearly 10 pm; 1.9 miles from Yale, Suzanne was ”left to die on a patch of grass in the moonlight.”
WHO DID THIS?
James Van de Velde
- A former Yale professor-expertise in anti-terrorism; intelligence analysis and international diplomacy; Thesis advisor and instructor of two classes taken by Suzanne Jovin;
- James grew up in Connecticut; attended Yale as an undergraduate and Fletcher School of Law and International Relations at Tufts University in 1988. He then was employed by the State Department until 1993 as a political analyst prior to being hired by Yale University;
- A ”rush to judgment” by the police” as their “one and only suspect from December 1998 to June 2013;
- No physical or circumstantial evidence linked to Van de Velde committing the crime – only reports of a broken relationship with another woman and ”rumors”;
- Contact with the murder victim on her last day of life was fleeting…. “Hi… How are you?” lasting less than a minute… As Jovin had submitted to Van de Velde changes to her thesis two days earlier…
- Van de Velde was dismissed or fired from all of his academic pursuits including his work at Yale, his courses taken at Quinnipiac College in broadcast journalism in addition to his U.S. Navy Reserve career;
- Main thrust of the investigation was Van de Velde’s proximity to the murder scene and a ”trumped up” relationship with Jovin;
- Personally described as a ”profoundly disciplined man,” Van de Velde had quirky teaching methods included pulling a gun out of his briefcase when teaching a simulated scene relating to a real-life extortion attempt and then declaring that “it wasn’t real.”[LJ- This would NEVER be allowed in a lecture hall in 2013];
- Statement from Van de Velde’s Attorney David Grundberg: “He went from teaching at one of the most prestigious universities in the world to being a complete pariah in academia and not being able to get a call back, an interview, anything from the lowliest of educational institutions.” (June 4, 2013)
Leading Up to the Crime: Timeline:
- [LJ -How ironic that Suzanne Jovin lived upstairs from the New Haven police substation – a second floor apartment at 258 Park Street. You’d think no place could be safer…. Had she been killed there, would they have done things differently?]
- 4:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. December 4, 1998
Suzanne submits rough draft of her senior essay on Osama bin Laden;
Begins preparations for pizza party for “Best Buddies” adult developmental disabilities non-profit: [http://www.bestbuddiesct.org/site/c.llIZIgN3JyE/b.1378399/k.66A1/Best_Buddies_International.htm ] at the Trinity Lutheran Church;
Dropped off volunteer with University station wagon:
- 8:45 p.m.
Suzanne returns car to parking lot and walks two blocks to her apartment;
Friends”yell up to her window” inviting her to join them at the movies. She declines to do school work;
A “mystery someone” receives e-mail from Jovin regarding a three party exchange of some Graduate Record Exam books that were borrowed and passed on;
- 9:10 p.m.
Suzanne logs off her computer and proceeds to walk to the Police Communications Center to return the car keys; [LJ- How ironic that she interfaces with police just an hour before she meets her death]
- 9:20 p.m.
Brief encounter with classmate Peter Stein commenting on how tired she was, carrying papers and “walking at a normal pace;”
- 9:25 p.m.
Returns car keys;
- 9:25-9:30 p.m.
S. Jovin last seen walking northeast on College Street by another student –No interaction took place;
- 9:55 p.m.
Stranger finds Suzanne bleeding profusely and calls 9-11;
Suzanne is pronounced dead at Yale New Haven Hospital.
Evidence and Lack of Follow-Up:
Over thirteen years’ time much collected evidence was determined to be unreliable, explained away or discredited. What remained and reported included was DNA evidence from Suzanne’s fingernail scrapings from her left hand; the tip of the knife used in the attack located n her skull; a partial palm print on a Fresca bottle in the bushes adjacent to her body.
Other related information: Only one of the17 stab wounds was fatal:
After the initial investigation was completed the Assistant State’s Attorney was quoted as saying in a July 2008 issue of Yale News;
“Don’t get me started on whether the initial investigation was wonderful,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Clark ’72 said, with a hint of sarcasm. “There’s no way to rewrite history, so you move forward with the different focus.” [LJ – Excuse me… Don’t get me started??]
THAT Focus was the identity of the “someone” to whom the GRE books were supposedly lent. It is apparent that this avenue also was inconclusive;
Questions, Questions, Questions and “Failures”
A brown or tan van was brought to the attention of police, but was not released to the public for two years and was never located;
Only one neighborhood store carried the Fresca brand, one block south of Jovin’s apartment. Reportedly, the police did not examine security tapes or question employees;
DNA analysis of the palm print had not been conducted despite public and family requests; In 2009, Jovin’s parents appealed to then Governor M. Jodi Rell to request that more advanced forensic testing be conducted on original evidence. However, at that time there was a backlog of 12,000 DNA samples. Testing on fingernail scrapings revealed matching -accidental evidence contamination by a technician.
Offer of Dr. Henry Lee to perform a crime scene re-construction was apparently not carried out;
Report of another possible suspect of another man sprinting through a church parking lot was investigated to solely rule in –rule out eyewitness identification of James Van de Velde and never followed through again; The witness failed to identify Van de Velde;
In September 2006, this case was supposedly assigned to the Cold Case Unit after eight years. However, Van de Velde discovered that it was a lie in that it was “secretly assigned to another team of New Haven detectives” and no reward was ever offered to remove the focus from him. To date, it is supposed to be a cold case, but is not published as such.
A theory of an unrequited love affair between Jovin and Van de Velde was considered highly unlikely by many parties, including her boyfriend. [LJ – No internet references of Jovin’s boyfriend could be found other than to deny that she did not have an affair and one phrase in one article stating that he was on a train during the murder.]
Was he ever questioned in a detailed manner? Was his alibi checked thoroughly?
“The Jovin Task Force” revealed in July 2008 that the circumstances of the exchange of GRE books was fraught with mystery. Jovin composed her last e-mail in German for a female friend to retrieve in the foyer of her apartment , giving the friend the code to her door in case Jovin was not home. Reportedly, the books were borrowed but never returned ,nor was “the borrower-someone” ever identified… Who had access to the code and who was the borrower?
“The Jovin Task Force” was presented with possible evidence in December 2002 by area residents of a suspicious comment made by another Yale student who told friends he was sure he’d be arrested for Suzanne’s murder and subsequently committed suicide. [LJ ‘Simply unstable or credible?] This lead was not pursued, although a freedom of Information Hearing request was filed against Yale and the City of New Haven, scheduled to be heard in May 2013 only to be postponed.
- Suzanne was the ultimate Yale scholar with friends, community and extracurricular activities including the German Club and music and she also tutored children;
- Her parents were research scientists who waited in quiet desperation for evidence and the advancement of science to assist in solving their daughter’s murder. However, so far, this has not occurred;
- Following her death, A friend noted that Suzanne., “once exclaimed how good she felt simply to be young, how much joy, optimism and sheer wonder she felt.”
Postscript: June 4, 2013 -New Haven:
Money talks or was bound to dry up after several more years…. A judicial mediator settled the legal actions brought by James Van de Velde against administrators of Yale and the City of New Haven for “wrongfully being labeled as a suspect.” After 12 years of litigation, the validity of his claims remained in the initial phase of legal arguments.
He planned to move forward with his career as a lecturer in securities studies at John Hopkins University, a consultant to the US intelligence community, return to the US Naval Reserves and become a spokesperson for the wrongfully accused.
May Peace always be with Suzanne Jovin…and also with James Van de Velde!