Cold Case Files: The 20 Year Scratch

May 20, 2020
How a body discovered in 1995 provided the clues resulting in resolution of the investigation 20 years later.

Domestic violence makes up a sizable portion of law enforcement calls for service. An estimated 10 million people per year experience physical abuse in an intimate relationship, with approximately 3 million or less actually reported. These events are so common its become both a reality and a television trope that when a person is murdered or missing, the prime suspect is their significant other. Due to this high likelihood investigations can sometimes steer in the wrong direction, and unfortunately lead to wrongful arrests.

The morning of May 30th 1995, volunteer workers at the Schenectady Municipal Golf Course in Schenectady, New York, stumble upon the body of a partially naked 17-year-old girl at the edge of the driving range. The deceased girl had bite marks on her breasts, leaves and dirt crammed into her mouth, and a shoelace wrapped around her neck as well as a size 8 ½ shoe nearby, and a condom at her side making it evident there was a sexual nature to this murder. The body was identified as that of Suzanne Nauman, a young lady with an unfortunate history of cocaine abuse and prostitution. Nauman's mother had been charged with prostitution several times and her family members were concerned Suzanne would suffer the same fate. Nauman's grandfather warned her to stay off the streets otherwise she'd end up dead, and unfortunately, he was right.

Police believed Nauman willingly went to the golf course and engaged in sex with her killer and was murdered afterwards. Nauman's boyfriend, Keith Gavreau, also addicted to cocaine at the time, had become angry with Suzanne's propensity to sell her body and use narcotics with other people. A witness would later allege Gavreau told him he could not find Suzanne the evening prior to her death, and was going to hurt her. Witnesses say the last time they saw Suzanne she was with Gavreau. This information makes a motive quite clear for Gavreau to be the killer. He was jealous and looking for Suzanne after making statements about harming her, she went with him willingly, and he was likely unstable due to his drug use. In 1996 Keith Gavreau was arrested for the murder of Suzanne Nauman. The District Attorney's Office agreed there was probable cause to charge Mr. Gavreau, however due to inconsistencies in evidence, such as Mr. Gavreau wearing a size 11 shoe, declined prosecution. After Gavreau was released and not prosecuted, this case went cold for nearly two decades.

Officers familiar with domestic violence and sex crime investigations are likely well versed in the type of wounds an attacker might suffer during the attack. Naturally the victim is going to resist and fight back, and luckily for investigating officers, this can provide crucial evidence.  In 2014 a team of investigators from Schenectady and New York State Police reopened the case and were able to obtain DNA from under Nauman’s fingernails, undoubtedly from her clawing at her attacker in a desperate attempt to save her own life. Investigators were able to determine the DNA belonged to a male, but it was not matched to an individual. While chasing leads in the Nauman case, authorities came across another murder with similar circumstances. Phyllis Harvey, a known prostitute and heroin addict had been reported missing in 1995, and her decomposed body was discovered on the porch of an abandoned apartment in Schenectady in March of 1996. Harvey had been strangled to death with a string around her neck, just like Nauman. The apartment had belonged to a Polish immigrant by the name of Stanislaw Maciag. Maciag vacated the apartment two months before his landlord came across Harvey's body.

Maciag had a history of violence against women. In 1992 he plead guilty to first degree sex abuse after assaulting a woman he offered a ride to. Maciag was serving five years probation when Harvey's body was found. He was quickly arrested for a probation violation while the murder case was built against him. Justice would not be served for Phyllis Harvey, however, because Maciag would hang himself in his jail cell in 1997 effectively halting the investigation. Given the similar circumstances for both murders, Maciag was now the prime suspect in the Nauman case. Maciag's relatives were willing to provide DNA samples which would enable investigators to obtain a warrant to exhume Maciag's body and gather DNA. Using this DNA the fingernail scrapings were positively matched to Maciag, as were the bite marks, and he of course wore a size 8 ½ shoe.

Maciag could not be prosecuted for the crimes, but in 2016 he was labeled as the offender for both murders. In the end most crucial evidence happened to be the victims will to live, futile as it may have been. Once technology caught up with the case, Nauman's fight to survive solved not only her own murder, but the murder of another unfortunate soul, and cleared the name of an innocent man.

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