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Hartford Courant from Hartford, Connecticut • Page 15

Publication:
Hartford Couranti
Location:
Hartford, Connecticut
Issue Date:
Page:
15
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

Wednesday, June 1999 THE HARTFORD COURANT A15 iA From Page One Police Catch Break In 26-Year-Old Murder Case Chronology Of A Mystery Here are some of the significant junctures in the case of the slaying of Concetta "Penney" Serra: the years it goes back and forth, back and forth. We don't get our hopes up anymore," said Catherine A. Zeoli, Penney Serra's aunt "God it would be a wonderful relief to really find out who could have done such a thing to her," Zeoli said "The sad thing is, it went on for so long, my brother John isn't here to see it" -1 '4 CONGRATULATIONS. YOU FOUND THE TITANIC. Now bring it to Mystic Aquarium-any day before 10 a.m.-for $2 off the admission price.

DeLieto was an early suspect, but he had an alibi. July 1993: A federal grand jury rules against Golino in a $40 million lawsuit he brought against New Haven police. The jury ruled the investigation was flawed, but not malicious. July 22, 1994: A New Haven Superior Court judge rejects an application for an arrest warrant charging Selman Topciu of Piano, Texas, with the killing. Chief State's Attorney John M.

Bailey says additional DNA tests will be done to strengthen the case. Spring 1999: A fingerprint leads to a new suspect. Police work on drafting an arrest warrant. July 16, 1973: Serra is found stabbed to death in a stairwell of the Temple Street garage in New Haven. July 4, 1984: Former baseball coach Anthony Golino is charged with murdering Serra, mostly because of a statement by his ex-wife that he told her he'd "do the same thing" to her he had done to Serra.

May 15, 1987: On the eve of trial, the charges against Golino are dismissed after prosecutor Mary Galvin announces Golino's blood type doesn't match the killer's. February 1988: A "60 Minutes" segment suggests that police have covered up evidence that points to Phil DeLieto, Serra's boyfriend, as the killer. Off June 20. IMS Thft oltar cannot reproduced or comolnod wWi any omor oNr or dncount. Police thought they had solved the case in 1984 when they arrested Anthony Golino, a substitute teacher and former baseball dbach.

Yet the state's evidence was almost purely circumstantial and was largely based on the testimony of his ex-wife, Joyce Lupone, who said during a domestic dispute that Golino told her to watch out or he'd "do the same thing" to her he had done to Penney Serra. The state's case against Golino collapsed on the eve of his May 1987 trial when prosecutor Mary Galvin stunned the court by announcing that a routine blood test showed Golino couldn't be the killer. He was the wrong blood type. The false starts and the wrong arrest will make the job of convicting anyone in the case more difficult "It's a dream case for a defense attorney because every single cop who worked on this case is under oath saying Tony Golino killed her," said New Haven attorney Hugh Keefe, who represented Golino. "I don't care how nationally prominent Henry Lee may be.

There is no way they are going to get a conviction in this case based on DNA evidence," Keefe said DNA Testing After the Golino debacle, a disappointed John Serra went to the chief state's attorney's office. He also went to Lee, head of the state police forensics lab and a man who already had a reputation for solving difficult cases. DNA testing turned up a new suspect Selman Topciu, a former chef at Murray's Downtown Luncheonette and a patient in Serra's dental office. Persuaded by the DNA results, the chief state's attorney's office tried to obtain an arrest warrant for Topciu five years ago. The warrant was rejected by Judge John Ronan, but Bailey vowed to press on.

Investigators then turned to a genetic testing center in Denver, one of the first labs in the country that does the latest in DNA testing the Short Tender Repeat or STR, test. The STR test can produce a match from as few as three or four strands of DNA, Lee said The new test was vital because there were few blood samples left from the original crime scene and they were so old that obtaining useful DNA samples was difficult The DNA analysis on Topciu resulted in a chance that the blood belonged to someone other than Topciu, sources said Such a ratio is not considered strong. A better match came after investigators identified the new fingerprint and compared a sample from the new suspect with blood at the scene. After so many years of false starts and fallen hopes, members of Serra's family are treating news of new suspect cautiously. "It's seems as though all through 1 V.J.-.MSfii-'"'kNi Continued from Page 1 Among New Haveners, the pieced-together details of the case are as familiar as Yale's Gothic towers.

There is Serra running for her life, only to be trapped in the stairwell of the Temple Street garage. There is the bloody parking ticket left as a tantalizing clue by the killer. There are the initials "MR" that a garage attendant claims were the first two letters on the license plate of the mysterious blue sedan the killer drove away in. The tissue box found in the back seat of Serra's car has been a key piece of evidence from the beginning. Advanced tests by Lee's forensic laboratory and the FBI discovered new details on a fingerprint that was on the tissue box before blood was smeared upon it, sources said.

Investigators have made an 18-point match of the print to the new suspect sources said. State courts consider an eight-point match good enough to link a fingerprint to a suspect Police matched the print through the state police crime laboratory's new automated fingerprint identification system. The suspect's prints were on file because he had been arrested in a domestic violence dispute years ago, sources said. DNA testing, sources said, solidified the link. If an arrest is made, it would reflect yet another, incredible twist in the death of the 21-year-old dental hygienist This new suspect is the fourth man investigators have seriously pursued in the case.

A City Shaken The Serra case, along with the murder of Yale student Gary Stein a year later, shattered the sense of security that shoppers and workers had always felt about their downtown. The haunting image of Penney Serra has hung like a cloud over the police department which was accused of botching the initial investigation and ultimately arresting the wrong man 11 years after the killing. "This case had more official input than any case I ever worked," said former Police Chief Nicholas Pas-tore, who was head of detectives I will arrange low cost financing even if you ve been turned down elsewhere. Loans available lor bankrupt, bad credit, no credit, previous repo. no cosigners, no credit check The Hartford Courant The Wrong Men For years, John Serra would not let people forget He placed ads in the New Haven Register with his daughter's picture and a plea for anyone with information to contact police.

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1 0, Giuln CT when Serra died. "I hope it can be brought to closure, because it's the one case that the city of New Haven has never been able to forget" Pastore said. Police thought they had an early break when two employees of the former Malley's department store picked Phil DeLieto, Serra's boyfriend at the time, out of a police lineup. But police couldn't shake his alibi. DeLieto was a short-order cook and several independent witnesses verified he was at the grill of a restaurant at Chapel and Olive streets at the time Serra was killed.

Police resorted to several methods considered unusual in 1973. They had Chris Fagen, the parking garage attendent hypnotized to see whether that would help him remember the person who handed him the bloody parking ticket or the complete license plate of the car that drove away. They hired psychics and clairo-voyants to review the case. And to identify fingerprints on the tissue box, they took prints from stock clerks who worked at the East Haven Shop Rite where the Serra family bought the tissues. Still, the case stalled With our low fares, being there is smart business.

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The federal panel was established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after last summer's deaths. I I V- I 1 A 'A if The panel used data collected by Janette Fennel! a California worn RaleighDurham By BLAIR GOLSON Los Angeles Times WASHINGTON Spurred in part by the findings of a federal safety panel, the major U.S. car manufacturers will install emergency trunk release mechanisms as standard features on all their cars as early as this summer. General Motors and DaimlerCh-rysler Corp. both made their announcements Tuesday, the same day the safety panel released its report recommending that federal officials take action to curtail accidental and intentional trunk entrapment.

Ford had already announced its intent in March to introduce trunk safety releases on its cars. A grass-roots campaign to require the installation of the safety features took on national prominence last summer when 11 children in three states accidentally locked themselves in car trunks and died in the oven-like conditions, which can reach 170 degrees. General Motors' Automatic Trunk Detection and Opener System the most technologically advanced opening mechanism detects movement and heat in a parked car's trunk and automatically opens it The system will be made standard on model year 2000 Chevrolet Impalas, and will be installed on other GM cars on a roll-out schedule, with all models compliant by 2002. GM, like many other automobile manufacturers, now offers a retrofit trunk opener kit that can be in an who began investigating the issue after she and her husband were forced at gunpoint into their trunk during a carjacking. According to her records, more than 260 people Nonstop service to Washington Dulles and West Palm Beach starts 7999.

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