What can you recommend, beyond those in this article, to solve this
heinous, unsolved murder?
The Unsolved December 1998 Murder of Yale Undergraduate Suzanne Jovin
Five years ago now, on December 4, 1998, a talented and intelligent
Yale undergraduate, Suzanne Jovin, was brutally murdered in New Haven.
Her killer has yet to be found. The investigation became derailed
almost immediately when the New Haven Police became enamored with lazy
speculation that perhaps Jovin was murdered by someone within Yale.
Yet the facts suggest otherwise and paint a picture of missed
opportunities and poor analysis.
The facts of the case suggest that Suzanne Jovin was likely murdered
in a random act of violence perhaps by more than one individual from
outside the Yale and New Haven communities.
The murder was ?high risk? and brazen. The individual or individuals
involved did not fear being recognized in the area in which he or they
picked Jovin up; nor did he or they fear being recognized in the area
where she was found. He or they likely did not belong in either
Jovin logged off her computer at 9:10 p.m. and was seen at
approximately 9:20 p.m., December 4, 1998 on the Old Campus at Yale on
her way to Phelps Gate to return keys to a car she borrowed to attend
a pizza party she helped organize for mentally retarded adults. It
takes 8 minutes to walk from her home on Park Street to the Old
Campus. According to a witness, then Yale undergraduate Peter Stein,
who spoke to her for a few moments at 9:20 p.m., "She did not mention
plans to go anywhere or do anything else afterward. She just said
that she was very, very tired and that she was looking forward to
getting a lot of sleep." (She used her electronic key card at 4:30 am
on December 4; either she woke very early or went to sleep very late.)
According to Stein, Jovin was holding a piece of white 8.5x 11" paper
in her right hand, but no soda bottle and no backpack, was walking at
a "normal" pace and did not look nervous or excited.
A Fresca soda bottle was found at the crime scene with Jovin's
fingerprints and a partial print from someone else. The second print
has yet to be identified and has not matched any known acquaintance.
The only establishment near the central campus that sold Fresca at the
time was Krauszer's, located near the corner of York and Elm
Street?precisely on the way home from Phelps Gate to her apartment.
Krauszer?s was open at the time and had a surveillance camera that
recorded all customers? activity. New Haven and Yale Police never
checked it, even though it might have taped the individual(s) who
murdered Jovin and even though it should have been intuitive to ask
immediately where might Jovin have purchased this somewhat unique
brand of soda on the Yale campus.
Adding time to the confirmed sighting, Jovin was now in or about
Krauszer?s at around 9:35 p.m.; a passerby called 911 at 9:55 p.m.
after finding Jovin lying unconscious on the corner of Edgehill and
East Rock Roads 1.9 miles away. Given the short time between when she
was seen on or near the campus and the attack nearly two miles away,
she most likely was driven to the crime scene.
The timeline suggests that Jovin was not on her way to any
appointment. The meeting with her murderer(s) was likely random, or
at least spontaneous. Since her trip to Phelps Gate was chosen at a
random time and she was in a random location of campus inaccessible by
car, it is unlikely that the murder was premeditated: how would anyone
have known where Jovin would have been at any given time? And who
would plan a murder by thinking: 'I'll drive around and around the
middle of campus hoping I just happen to bump into her and that she's
alone, then I'll find some way to entice her into my car even if that
entails force so that I can stab her with a knife I'll have hidden,
all the while hoping I'll be invisible to the hundreds of people I'll
pass along the way on an unseasonably warm Friday night.?
A serendipitous meeting with someone she knew most likely would not
allow for an acquaintance to come prepared for murder (i.e., with a
knife), nor have his car parked conveniently nearby?precisely in
between Krauszer?s and her apartment on Park Street, in the middle of
the Yale campus, on a one way street, in a direction facing opposite
to her likely destination?home, just a couple short blocks away. And
even if such series of serendipity occurred, why would she get into a
car 1 block from her home with someone who had some animus toward her?
And who at Yale drives around the campus in a car ? especially as a
means to find someone?
For a killer known to Jovin to have waited for her to arrive home from
wherever she was would mean the killer knew or assumed she would be
returning and returning alone that evening, would have somehow been
able to convince her to get into his car, though she would have just
returned home, and would have staked her out immediately in front of
the Yale Police substation.
It takes 8 minutes to drive from the corner of York and Elm to the
corner of East Rock and Edgehill. This leaves little time for an
amicable meeting to turn sour and then hostile.
The crime was not likely committed by someone who knew Jovin.
According to the New Haven Police Press Statement of March 27, 2001,
*several* witnesses saw a ?tan or brown? van stopped facing *east* on
East Rock Road around the time of the crime immediately adjacent to
where her body was found and in precisely the direction in which a
vehicle would be if it were ejecting a body, or if Jovin were escaping
a vehicle that had stopped.
Since she did not have her wallet on her at the time of her abduction,
but only a crumbled dollar bill (perhaps the extra cash she took to
purchase a Fresca on her way home?), a frustrated abduction/robbery is
a possible motive. ?Use of a car? in this type of crime implies the
killer wanted something from her: most likely money or sex.
On October 25, 2001, in a press conference, State?s Attorney Michael
Dearington revealed that DNA was found under the fingernails of Jovin.
It did it match Jovin?s boyfriend?s or any of the emergency personnel
who worked on her. The State?s Attorney announced that investigators
planned to ask for samples from acquaintances and friends of Jovin.
Dearington stated that should no innocent match be established, it
would be more likely match the assailant. Since no word has emerged
in two years, presumably no match has been made to date.
According to the 1996 Bureau of Justice Statistics (the latest such
reference on the subject), for women aged 18-24, 53 percent of knife
homicides of women involve individuals who are at least acquainted
with the victim. But 45 percent are committed by a stranger. Most of
these homicides are committed at or in the woman's home. Only 2.9
percent of such homicides are committed on the street. Although I
found no specific statistic to combine the two variables, it is
logical that homicides involving a knife involving a woman away from
her home are overwhelmingly committed by strangers.
Despite the comments by the New Haven Police that ?there is a good
possibility that she may have known her assailant and the assailant
knew her,? there is not a good possibility at all. It is unlikely
Jovin was attacked by someone she knew. And given the facts of the
case, the location, the likely point of meeting, the age and marital
status of the victim, it is especially unlikely.
What Can Be Done
Technologies developed in just the last decade afford the
investigation with new ideas to help solve the case. Here are some
that are potentially relevant:
? Determine the age of the individual through testing the hormones
left within the fingerprints found on the Fresca soda bottle found at
the crime scene. (Dr. Henry Lee?s lab could perform this test or
refer it to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, see below.)
? Conduct a sweat print analysis on the clothing. Dale Perry of the
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory can do one as small as 10
micrometers across?smaller than a single fingerprint ridge. He uses a
synchrotron, a particle accelerator to produce intense light which,
when shone at the sample, is absorbed and reveals a chemical make up
that may be unique. If not unique to a person, it can at least
segregate age and sex. This technique requires little material.
? According to the New Haven Police, a copy of the Yale magazine New
Journal was found near or on Jovin when she was found. Test the New
Journal and Jovin?s clothing under UV light and laser light for
fingerprints; paper especially holds fingerprints very well and for a
long period of time.
? Determine the ethnicity of the individual through analysis of the
DNA found under the fingernails of Jovin. Any result could be
potentially helpful. Consider the possibility that the individual is
Indo-European, Asian, or African. Then match the ethnicity with the
age of the individual, and one has a new lead. At least four
companies perform such services as a business: Oxford Ancestors,
Genelex, Print Genomics and Family Tree DNA: (see:
www.oxfordancestors.com; www.genelex.com; www.dnaprint.com;
www.familytreedna.com) New Haven or Yale could easily afford these
companies? fees, about $300.
? Since forensic science now can extract DNA from fingerprints, the
police can determine whether the DNA under Jovin's fingernails
correspond to the DNA in the fingerprints on the Fresca bottle found
at the crime scene. If they match, the DNA is most likely the
killer?s. The investigation then becomes a DNA hunt. (Yale could
easily afford Dr. Lee?s expertise to perform or refer this test.)
Although such a test may destroy much of the original print, one gets
an even more specific piece of evidence--DNA, and the photo of the
fingerprint remains in the computer system and case file. After a
suspect is identified, let a defense lawyer try to argue that the NHPD
never had the fingerprint in the first place and try to explain how
his client?s DNA appeared on the Fresca bottle.
? The employees of Krauszer?s in December 1998 ought to be located and
fingerprinted to determine whether they are the source of the
suspicious prints. (Krauszer's Food Stores Inc., National Road,
Edison, NJ 08817, 732-287-2800) It is astounding that the NHPD hasn't
bothered to locate and test the former employees for the purpose of
ruling out the most likely alternative to the prints being those of
Jovin's killer. As we know from the infamous New Haven Penny Serra
case, unsolved for 24 years, the print on the tissue box that ended up
*not* matching the employees at the Pathmark where it was purchased
did indeed end up identifying the individual convicted of the Serra
crime. Further, had the Police reviewed cash register receipts, they
might have pinpointed the exact time Jovin left the store and thus
been able to ask the relevant clerk whether he or she had noticed any
suspicious activity around that time.
? Perform a microscopic forensic analysis of Jovin's clothing to
determine molecular trace elements deposited on her clothing, which
could identify dirt and tire molecules, among other unique substances,
which can be traced to a specific region or vehicle. A microscopic
forensic test might show whether Suzanne?s clothing was in contact
with the floor of a Dodge B250--the type allegedly seen at the crime
scene, according to former Deputy Head of Detectives, Bryan
Norwood--or other van. Skip Palenik in Chicago, for instance, could
perform such analysis. (see: www.microtracescientific.com) (Yale
could easily afford Mr. Palenik?s expertise.)
? Compare the fingerprints found on the Fresca bottle with all local
and national databases, as well as the FBI?s partial-fingerprint
? Compare the DNA found under the fingernails of Jovin with all local
and national databases.
? Make use of regional and national DMV records and other federal
agencies to locate the van seen at the crime.
? Perform a 411 telephone-information-check to see who might have
called SNET in the fall of 1998 to learn the address or phone number
? Perform a phone record search of calls from outside the Yale
switchboard to Jovin's 624-xxxx number ? not just the day of her
? Perform a phone check of her number against all those who own Dodge
B250 vans in New England.
? Perform a special search through search engine logs of those who
searched her home number and address in the fall of 1998 through the
Yale web site. Pantek, a computer forensic investigation company in
Chicago, could perform such an investigation, so could the computer
forensics department of General Dynamics. (see:
http://www.dtsearch.com/CS_forn-intel-gov.html) (Yale could easily
afford either company?s expertise.)
? Using a special network search program that the Microsoft
Corporation has, determine who has searched stories on the Jovin
investigation and look for anyone on that list who lives in a 100-mile
radius who has access to a passenger van.
? Test the knife tip left in Jovin?s body to determine who made it,
where it was sold, and who bought similar knives in the '97-?98 time
frame. The University of Connecticut, Department of Metallurgy, can
likely determine the type of weapon used in the crime.
? Contact officials associated with the Marrakech organization who
would have known which of the 11 Best Buddy clients and 6 associates
who traveled to the pizza party Jovin attended the evening of her
death arrived in city-supplied vans or who drove vans for Marrakech
(many did, according to the former director, who was never interviewed
by the NHPD). Nineteen staff people had some connection with the Best
Buddies program. The NHPD has not interviewed a single one of them.
? Little to no publicity about the $150,000 reward money has been
circulated outside of the Yale campus and no reward information likely
ever reached the associates of Jovin?s killers since posters were only
hung around Yale and only briefly. In 1999, West Hartford Police held
four days of near constant press conferences to ask the public for
help in solving a police homicide in which little evidence was
originally found. The constant publicity led to a tip, which led to
an arrest. Therefore, use television and radio to broadcast the
existence of the Jovin reward to municipalities from which more likely
the killer(s) came.
This past October, the State of Connecticut began a program to DNA
test all felons in prison who have committed certain crimes. Perhaps
Jovin?s murderer is already in prison. Federal legislation recently
passed will speed the testing of DNA samples from federal crimes.
With some luck, a computer will solve the Jovin crime, much like a
computer did for the then 25-year-old, unsolved New Haven Penney Serra