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Friday, March 9, 2001

03/09/01 Reward doubles; officials look to DNA for clues in '84 murder

By J.A.Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time

Matthew Margolies' mother stepped to the microphone-adorned podium, looked straight at the television cameras and pleaded for help in finding her son's killer.

"Please, I beg you to help me find some level of closure," Maryann Margolies said yesterday at a press conference convened by law enforcement officials to elicit the public's assistance in their renewed push to solve the 1984 homicide.

Deputy Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano, who since November has headed a combined state and local "cold case squad" that is probing the murder, announced that the state has more than doubled its share of the reward money for the Margolies case. He said Gov. John Rowland authorized an increase from $20,000 to $50,000. With $10,000 in private funds, the reward now totals $60,000.

Officials also announced that anyone with information about the murder can call a newly established 24-hour telephone tip line: (203) 532-1949.

In addition to unveiling measures to elicit greater public cooperation, Morano revealed that technicians at the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory in Meriden are preparing to use the latest in DNA testing on physical evidence from the case.

The evidence includes hair that Margolies' killer may have left at the crime scene.

The testing will be done at the direction of retired state public safety commissioner Dr. Henry Lee, one of the nation's preeminent forensic experts.

Of Lee's involvement in the Margolies case, Morano said, "That makes me the luckiest cold case prosecutor in the country."

While cautioning against unduly high expectations, Morano said he is optimistic about a positive outcome of the renewed probe because the original investigation was well-documented by police and physical evidence has been well preserved.

"All relevant and crucial pieces of evidence have been sealed since 1984 and have not been pawed by well-meaning individuals," Morano said, adding that the integrity of the evidence can ward off possible future claims of tampering or contamination.

Morano, the state's second highest-ranking prosecutor, said the Margolies case is unique for an old homicide case in that police had taken and retained DNA samples from suspects during the initial investigation.

"We have a veritable database, for lack of a better word, of suspects," he said.

In an interview last week, Lee said cold case investigators collected additional DNA samples from suspects who voluntarily supplied hair and saliva, and search warrants may be sought to obtain DNA from uncooperative suspects.

Margolies was killed Aug. 31, 1984, in a wooded area off Pemberwick Road, not far from his home on Pilgrim Drive, in a neighborhood of the Pemberwick section of Glenville known as "The Valley."

According to the autopsy report, Margolies had been stabbed more than a dozen times and was suffocated by dirt shoved down his throat. The boy's body was concealed under a pile of brush, rocks and leaves and, despite an extensive search, was not found for five days.

Eight people who either lived or worked in the Glenville area were identified as suspects during the initial investigation, police said, and all remain under suspicion.

The case was actively investigated through 1988, but as the killer's trail grew colder, leads trickled to a stop.

In early 1999, two Greenwich detectives were assigned to conduct a complete reinvestigation of the case. After a year of preliminary work, which included a careful review of the nearly 700-page case file, the detectives began conducting interviews in March 2000. Since then, state forensic scientists have been reviewing physical evidence in the case and DNA testing is expected to begin soon.

More leads surfaced after Greenwich Time published a five-part series about the Margolies case in early September. A month later, Greenwich police applied to have the case assigned to the state cold case unit.

Police Chief Peter Robbins said yesterday that the Margolies case file has grown to include more than 1,000 pages of police reports.

"The Greenwich Police Department has never diminished its resolve to solve this case and bring closure to the loving family members over their loss," he said.

Yesterday's press conference, Robbins said, "is yet another stage in the process to bring this case to what is hoped will be a successful solution."

But with her daughter, mother and husband looking on, Maryann Margolies held center stage yesterday as she remembered her slain son.

"He was respectful, considerate, loving and caring," the 61-year-old Pemberwick woman said. "He valued life and knew how to live it. Matthew brought us much happiness. He loved to joke and have fun.

"I wasn't able to hold him as he was dying, to take away his fear and ease his pain. What can I do? I can continue to offer him dignity and see that justice takes place. I have always felt that someone knows something and is not coming forward. Please, I beg you to help me find some level of closure. Look into your heart and soul. It takes courage to do what is right."

In addition to using the tip line, anyone with information about the Margolies case can call Greenwich police Detectives Timothy Duff, at 622-8080, and Gary Hoffkins, at 622-8037, or e-mail the state cold case squad at cold.case@po.state.ct.us .

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