Officials say they’ve solved a 22-year-old cold case in Schenectady. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports it took modern forensic technology and a fresh set of eyes to close the case. A warning that some listeners may find this story upsetting.
In May 1995, the body of a 17-year-old girl was discovered at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Found with a sneaker-lace around her neck, leaves stuffed into her mouth and throat, and bite marks on her chest, Suzanne Nauman’s death would go unsolved for more than two decades.
Longtime Schenectady County District Attorney Bob Carney said he still vividly remembers the scene that morning in May.
“It seemed that day like a case that would be easily solvable. But it was not solved. That fact has troubled everyone who has ever worked on it,” said Carney.
According to a lengthy statement Carney released Monday, at the time, the original suspect was Nauman’s boyfriend, Keith Gavreau. Both were seen together on the night of Nauman’s death. Gavreau maintained that Nauman entered a vehicle later that night with an unknown man and drove off.
Nauman and Gavreau were drug users and Gavreau was reportedly angry with Nauman, who was also prostituting herself, the night she was killed.
But there were inconsistencies in the evidence connecting Gavreau to the case. A laceless shoe found at the crime scene was size 8-and-a-half. Gavreau wore size 11. Bite marks on Nauman’s body also did not match with Gavreau.
Eleven months after Nauman’s body was discovered, Gavreau was arrested and charged with her murder as well as that of another individual, Kenneth Martin, who was found dead in October 1995.
When Gavreau was in jail, two inmates reportedly said that Gavreau made admissions about killing Nauman.
Carney’s office prosecuted Gavreau in Martin’s death, and he was sentenced.
But Gavreau was never prosecuted for Nauman’s death.
“We never presented this case to a Grand Jury because I was not convinced Gavreau was guilty,” said Carney.
The case remained unsolved until the Schenectady Police Department and state police agreed to re-open the investigation last year.
Investigators came across an editorial from the Daily Gazette that pointed out similarities between Nauman’s death and the death of Phyllis Harvey.
Harvey’s body was found partially decomposed in a Schenectady apartment.
Carney said that apartment had been rented to a man named Stanislaw Maciag.
“He had abandoned the property in January 1996, two months before the discovery by his landlord of Phyllis Harvey’s body, wrapped in plastic on his rear porch accessible only from Maciag’s apartment,” said Carney. “Phyllis Harvey had a rope tied around her neck. She, too, had been a prostitute.”
Maciag was arrested a day after Harvey’s body was discovered. He was soon charged with violating his probation for a sexual abuse conviction and was sent to prison.
While incarcerated, Maciag was accused of sexually abusing another woman in Schenectady.
Before investigators presented their case against him in Harvey’s death, Maciag hanged himself in his cell.
Years later, investigators suspected Maciag. The women he been accused of abusing including Harvey, and Nauman had all been involved in prostitution or encountered alone, late at night. The two that were killed had been found with cords around their necks. During a search of Maciag’s apartment after Harvey’s body was found, a size 8-and-a-half shoe was taken as evidence – the same size as the shoe discovered near Nauman’s body.
Carney said investigators re-examining the case sought help from Maciag’s family.
“Although Maciag was long dead, he has surviving blood relatives. The detectives approached them and aseked whether they would voluntarily provide us with DNA samples. Although under no duty to do so, they cooperated fully with the investigators,” said Carney. “We thank them for their help.”
The New York State Police Forensics Investigation Center released a report in December 2016 that compared the DNA of Maciag’s family members with fingernail scrapings from Suzanne Nauman.
The results prompted a search warrant to exhume Maciag’s remains. Carney said the DNA sample taken from Maciag’s body matched a profile taken from Nauman’s fingernail scrapings.
“The probability of selecting an unrelated individual matching the major contributor to this item is less than 1 in 320 billion,” said Carney.
Dental impressions taken from Maciag’s body also matched bite marks found on Nauman.
Lastly, Gavreau was shown a photo of Maciag. He identified him as the man who picked up Nauman and drove away the night she was killed.
Though Maciag is dead, Carney believes he was the one who killed Suzanne Nauman.
“She was engaged in prostitution, she was a drug user, but she was only 17 years old,” said Carney. “It was very, very sad. So to finally put this case to rest, to know who did it, to know that [Maciag] chose his own path to express his guilt and took his own life and is no longer with us…the whole thing is an example of the value of cold case investigations.”