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Wednesday, November 1, 2000

11/01/00 State unit takes up Margolies case

By J.A. Johnson Jr.

A state investigative unit that specializes in old, unsolved homicides has agreed to help the Greenwich Police Department in its reinvestigation of the 1984 Matthew Margolies murder case.

Police Chief Peter Robbins yesterday said his request for assistance from the state's "cold case squad" was accepted in early October, and a meeting was planned for later this week at which local and state detectives will discuss possible strategies.

"I think they think it can be solved, so we're happy about that," Robbins said of the unit's involvement with the Margolies case. "We'll know better where things are going after we meet this week."

News of this latest development in the long unsolved murder mystery was greeted enthusiastically by the mother of the 13-year-old Glenville boy who was fatally stabbed and suffocated in woods less than a mile from his Pilgrim Drive home on Aug. 31, 1984.

"I think it's a very positive move," Maryann Margolies said yesterday. "The Greenwich police are asking for a fresh pair of eyes to look over the material, to look over the evidence, and maybe they'll see something or find something by looking at it from a different perspective."

The cold case unit operates out of the chief state's attorney's office in Rocky Hill, under the direction of Deputy Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano. The unit is divided into several squads, each supervised by a prosecutor and staffed by state inspectors who are seasoned homicide investigators.

When a local police department refers a case to the state unit, it also provides at least one, but usually two, of its detectives.

"The goal is to combine all those resources to give cold cases a thorough examination from all different angles," Morano said. "It's a team effort."

Sgt. Timothy Duff and Detective Gary Hoffkins, the two Greenwich officers who began a reinvestigation of the Margolies murder earlier this year, will be working closely with the state unit, Robbins said.

Morano, a native of Greenwich who is now the second-highest ranking prosecutor in the state, cautioned against any undue expectations that the Margolies case will be solved as a result of his unit's involvement.

"I want to stress that this is going to be a long and tedious process, and a majority of cold cases are not solved," he said.

Morano said that only seven of the more than 20 cold cases his unit has examined since its formation in 1998 have resulted in arrests.

Nevertheless, he said the cold case unit agrees to take on an investigation only when there appears to be a chance to solve it.

"It has to be something where we believe there are areas where that can be examined, say, forensically or suspect-wise," Morano said. "There has to be a real reason to rehash the case. If something's already been rehashed to death, and there's no fodder for further investigation, then probably we won't get involved."

Neither state or local officials would cite specific reasons why the Margolies case was a good candidate for acceptance by the state unit.

However, it was previously reported by Greenwich Time that new leads and potential witnesses had surfaced after the newspaper published a series of stories about the Margolies case in September. The stories, based on interviews, the autopsy report and police records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, contained information about the murder, suspects and other facts never before made public.

It was also learned from police that some of the new leads detectives were pursuing involved information that one of eight "key" suspects - a teenager who lived near Margolies and possibly held a grudge against the victim - may have ingested multiple doses of a hallucinogenic drug the day of the murder. Originally thought to have been sexually motivated, police are now examining whether the murder may have been committed by someone under the influence of drugs.

Robbins and Morano also indicated that the combined state and local effort will involve testing of physical evidence by forensic scientists, but they would not provide details.

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