Ivy League Cold Case: A new look at the 1998 killing of Yale student Suzanne Jovin

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A cold-blooded murder near Yale University. The victim — Suzanne Jovin, a student at the Ivy League school. The crime in the late 1990s sent shock waves around the campus, the state, the country, and even the world.

News 8’s Sarah Cody covered it extensively from the beginning. But is this cold case growing colder? Or is there still hope that a killer will be caught?

Suzanne Jovin, a Yale University senior from Germany was found stabbed 17 times a few miles from campus in an upscale, residential area in New Haven.

WEB EXTRA: Investigation into the murder Suzanne Jovin (1998)

“It’s a really sad case,” says renowned forensics specialist Dr. Henry Lee.

More than 20 years have passed since that mild December night in 1998.

Many questions, few public answers, the search for the killer is ongoing.

“I remember that day vividly,” says Lee, recalling how he picked up the phone and called the chief of the New Haven Police Department.

“‘Is there anything we can do,'” he recalls asking. “‘Thank you, Dr. Lee, an arrest is going to be any moment.’ So, I thought the case was solved.”

Police had named Jovin’s thesis advisor, James Van de Velde, as a suspect. The former Yale professor endured intense scrutiny but was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

WEB EXTRA: Interview with the sister of Suzanne Jovin (1999)

Questions have long swirled. Was the scene botched? Evidence collected – a soda bottle, a knife tip, and Jovin’s clothes – has not yielded any public answers.

Lee studied some of it. The rest went to the FBI.

“This is really a mistake. Usually the evidence should submit to one laboratory,” says Lee.

“Somebody was killed and you just want to find out who did it,” says Jeff Mitchell of Westport, a childhood friend of Van de Velde’s, who has worked tirelessly over the years to find answers.

He produced a documentary on YouTube called The Green Jacket Killer, a reference to a piece of information released by the Jovin Task Force in 2008.

WEB EXTRA: Almost a decade later, task force works to solve murder of Suzanne Jovin (2008)

A witness claims to have seen a man running near the scene. Investigators released a sketch and said he was wearing a loose-fitting green jacket.

The timeline and the route Jovin took that night are crucial to figuring out what happened. She was seen at Yale’s Phelps Gate at 9:10 p.m. She then walked north on College Street and was seen around 9:30 p.m. Twenty-five minutes later she was found about two miles away, on the corner of East Rock and Edgehill Roads, fighting for her life. It’s believed she got here by car. But, who was the driver? And, is the man in the green jacket significant?

“He felt he was being persecuted, followed,” says Gilles Carter, who lives in the area where Jovin was killed. He had a run-in with a Yale graduate student in 2011 that he believes is significant. They knew one another through an alumni group.

The man, who we will not name because he’s never been called a suspect, bore a resemblance to the sketch and was often seen in a green jacket.

“He showed up at my door extremely disturbed, distressed,” remembers Carter. “I said, ‘Let’s go for a walk,’ and we walked into Edgerton Park….we walked into the park and he said, ‘There’s something you should know’….He said, ‘Yes, I’m obsessed with the murder of Suzanne Jovin.'”

Shortly after, the man died in a bizarre accident on I-95, possibly a suicide. Carter got together with other concerned friends. They brought their information to investigators.

“If you look at any modern crime drama, the number one thing is DNA,” says Mitchell, who has worked with Carter, trying to come up with clues in this cold case.

Web Extra: One year after the murder of Suzanne Jovin (1999)

They want to know: was DNA collected from the man’s death? And has it been compared to evidence from the Jovin scene?

“So, we don’t know if they ever talked to anybody, if anything ever came of it,” says Mitchell.

Lee says, if DNA exists, new modern testing could be utilized: “The DNA, the technique in recent years has tremendous improvement.”

New Haven State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin gave us the following statement:

“The investigation into the homicide of Suzanne Jovin is a very active case. Investigators in the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office are continually reviewing records, following up on new leads, and working with the state forensics laboratory to solve the case. We are committed to providing justice for Suzanne’s family and making sure that whoever is responsible for this heinous crime does not escape accountability.”

“We see absolutely no evidence of anything that would constitute an ongoing investigation,” says Carter.

WEB EXTRA: Two years after the murder of Suzanne Jovin (2000)

“It’s difficult but not impossible. In my career, we solve a lot of cold cases,” says Lee, who believes it takes persistence, keeping the case in the public eye with a focus on justice for the victim.

In this case, a smart, generous 21-year-old woman gone, too soon.

“Everyone would very much like to see closure for the Jovin family, closure for the neighborhood,” says Carter.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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