On 4 December 1998, 21-year-old Suzanne Jovin, a political science and international-studies senior at Yale University, was found two miles away from her campus bleeding from multiple stab wounds. Lying on the grass next to the curb on a quiet residential street at 10 pm in the evening, Suzanne Jovin’s life had ebbed away in the minutes before she was found and emergency services were called. A young woman in the prime of her life had been murdered outside residential homes, yet no one had witnessed the attack or caught a glimpse of her attacker.
The coroner concluded Jovin had been stabbed 17 times in the back and neck in a vicious and violent assault. The tip of the knife used to stab her was still embedded in Suzanne Jovin’s skull but the knife itself has never been found. DNA evidence was found under Jovin’s fingernails only to be discovered to be due to cross-contamination and the DNA profile to belong to a lab-worker who worked on the case. 19 years on, the person who took her life that night has not been found and her family is no closer to finding out who killed her and why.
Somebody out there is walking around living their life with the knowledge that they carried out this horrific murder and have got away with it.
Suzanne Jovin was raised in Germany by American parents, both high achievers, and had come to the prestigious Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut excited and enthusiastic about her future. Yale is one of the oldest and most respected Universities in America, attracting talent and excellence both to work and teach at the University and to study. Suzanne Jovin was an excellent student who spoke four languages and enjoyed being involved with the various activities and volunteering opportunities available to her through the university.
In an article published in 2009 by Vanity Fair entitled “Murder Most Yale”, a timeline of the events on the 4 December 1998 and Suzanne Jovin’s last known movements have been detailed.
On the day she was killed, Suzanne Jovin left a new draft of her senior essay on the desk of her Yale professor and thesis supervisor James Van de Velde, a man who would later become a ‘person of interest’ in the case. In the evening she attended a party she had organised at the Trinity Lutheran Church. It was a gathering for a buddy organisation aiming to pair students with mentally disabled students as a support network. After leaving the event about 8.30 pm, she borrowed a car from the university to drive some of the volunteers who helped at the party home.
From there she returned to her apartment on campus where she spoke with friends and sent emails before being seen at 9.15 pm on her way to return the keys of the borrowed car to Phelps Gate at the University. Just before 9.30 pm, she was seen by a witness “walking north on College Street,” not the most straightforward route to take if she were walking home.
At 9.58 pm she was found stabbed in the street almost 2 miles away. On foot, Suzanne Jovin could not have travelled this distance in that time, leading police to believe she was driven to this location and most likely only getting into the car of someone she knew.
Investigators found only one witness who may have information important to the case. This witness reported seeing a man running very fast away from the location that Suzanne Jovin was found. She provided a description of the man for a sketch artist, telling them he had “blondish hair, chiseled features and was wearing dark clothes and a loose-fitting green-colored jacket.” The circulated sketch has to date not provided any new leads on the case or identified who this man was.
In September 2017, the Hartford Courant reported on new efforts to solve this case which has baffled detectives and investigators for almost two decades. They reported that new DNA testing has been ordered on items of clothing worn by Suzanne Jovin on the night she was killed, in the hopes of obtaining a DNA profile from ‘touch DNA’, a technique that was used in the JonBenet Ramsey investigation to clear her parents of involvement in her murder.
The Scientific American‘s explanation of touch DNA is that “it analyses skin cells left behind when assailants touch victims, weapons or something else at a crime scene.” The benefit of touch DNA analysis is that it is not reliant on being able to visually see trace evidence such as blood or semen and it is focused on detecting the presence of skin cells.
It is hoped that application of this forensic testing technique on the clothing of Jovin, may uncover some evidence pointing towards her killer. In the months after her murder, police focused their attention on her supervisor James Van de Velde with a theory that the pair may have been involved in a relationship together. Despite finding no evidence to support such a theory or, in fact, that Van de Velde was involved at all, press reports continued to speculate leading to the loss of his job at the University and damage to his reputation that he is still struggling to repair. In 2006, James Van de Velde was declared as no longer a person of interest in the murder of Suzanne Jovin, clearing him of any involvement. He has spent the years since pushing for new investigations into her murder in order to find her killer.
The investigation into Suzanne Jovin’s murder has continued with cold case detectives re-interviewing witnesses and trying to find any new witnesses who could provide new information. “It’s a jigsaw puzzle in very small pieces,” the Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane told Connecticut Magazine in 2013. There are many questions still surrounding this murder case and a violent killer is still out on the streets. Suzanne Jovin and her family have never received justice and it can only be hoped that significant breakthroughs can be made through new forensic testing to solve this case before it reaches its twentieth anniversary.