NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s clear now, but it looked much different a year ago. The area was overgrown with vegetation that hid the first pieces of evidence in one of the most notorious murder cases in New Haven history.
“Confusion at first,” said New Haven Homicide Sergeant David Zannelli, about the first calls to come in. “If they were real or not.”
The reports were shocking. Human legs found just feet from a sidewalk on Court Street, near the State Street Station, in one of the most well-traveled spots in the city.
New Haven Homicide Detectives describe the bizarre scene one year ago today.
“That day, a lot of people here. A lot of police personnel from different units assisting,” said head Detective Bertram Ettienne. “Because we didn’t know what we were dealing with.”
It was a day the detectives will never forget. Just a few hours later there was another discovery. Two arms found in a bag a block away, near the railroad tracks under the Chapel Street bridge. And days later, a human torso was found in the old Salvation Army building downtown.
A scattered crime scene. A gruesome act of murder. Solving this was not going to be easy.
“I had never seen anything like this in my career,” Sgt. Zannelli said. “Something for television, not necessarily for real life. Stunning for me.”
A year later the homicide detectives spoke to News 8 about the case and their initial thoughts arriving on the scene.
“I don’t think your training prepares you for that,” Det. Ettienne said. “I don’t think anything can prepare you for that.”
The remains were that of Ray Roberson. He was a New Haven native who had fallen on hard times and was now homeless.
No arrests have been made in his murder. But another man was found in a building, close to where Roberson’s torso was discovered. Dave Andaz was arrested for criminal trespass and sentenced to two and half years in jail for a parole violation. New Haven attorney Paul Carty represented Andaz in court.
“A lot of times when you form an opinion ahead of time, you find out you’re wrong,” Carty said regarding speculation about his client.
Carty said Andaz and Roberson knew each other. That they were friends even.
Prosecutors mentioned to Carty that his client could be a potential suspect in the Roberson murder, but lacked any credible evidence linking Andaz to the crime.
“‘They never presented any theory or plausible explanation that he may have been responsible?'” asked News 8’s Jason Newton. “Other than saying they believed he was connected, no,” Carty said in response.
With multiple crime scenes, detectives knew this case would be tough to solve. The abandoned building where Roberson’s torso was discovered is a known hang-out for many squatters.
“Witnesses are homeless and nomadic. So they change locations,” Sgt. Zannelli said. “Finding them, speaking with them are key points there.”
Police aren’t giving up. Having to personally deliver the news to Roberson’s family, Det. Ettienne is focused on bringing them closure, in the form of justice.
“A crime of this nature, to sit down with the family — in this case mom and sister — and let them know this is your son, your brother cut up and spread over the city, is extremely difficult,” Det. Ettienne said.
Police know some key witnesses are out there with information to help crack the case. They’re asking for anyone with ties to homeless community to step forward, and point them in the right direction. Hopefully to help solve the gruesome murder of Ray Roberson.
“They can help us with this investigation. We need those people to step forward and aid us in any way possible,” Det. Ettienne said. “That’s the only way to bring justice to the family.”
Evidence is still out there. The head and hands belonging to Roberson have never been found. Anyone with information is asked to contact New Haven Police.