Want To Solve
this follows material on the Smolinkski case in Waterbury
and essays on how to get information from cops, prosecutors
and others in the criminal world.
in both the Smolinski and Showalter cases,
authorities failed to act.
the discerning digger, aka reporter,
would want to find out why.
as you prepare to question Jan Smolinski, mother of missing person Billy Smolinski,
also take a look at the Showalter case in New London.
in both cases, authorities eventually were forced to act by reporters...
Note: The following columns ran in 2000 in The Connecticut Law Tribune. They build on work published about 30 years ago in The Norwich Bulletin, The Hartford Courant and by United Press International.
Hit-And-Run Continues To Mock Justice
If Connecticut Chief State's Attorney John Bailey wants to bring closure to cold cases, here's one from New London that should top the list: The Showalter hit-and-run cover-up is a dark chapter in Connecticut history, a tale more appropriate for a Third World country.
And yet, only one thing bothers former New London County State's Attorney C. Robert Satti about the Showalter case: that it was investigated at all.
Satti, now retired, made the point again and again, most recently this year. Satti's complaint, made during the wake of the late state police Detective George Ryalls, was that Ryalls' obituary mentioned the suspect the prosecutor refused to pursue in the Showalter probe.
Kevin B. Showalter, a 20-year-old Mitchell College student, was killed at 11:12 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1973. He was changing a tire on a well-lit section of Pequot Avenue on the New London shoreline when he was struck and killed. His girlfriend, sitting only 6 feet away on a stone wall, claims she saw nothing.
Auto body putty from the death car disappeared after a tow truck driver gave it to New London police. The evidence file that was supposed to contain the putty was stuffed with bathroom tiles. The file that was supposed to contain headlight glass from the death car instead contained glass from three different headlights. State police and others suspected that, in order to throw legitimate investigators off the trail, the late young man's clothing was pounded on a different-colored car than the one that killed him.
The victim's mother, Lucille M. Showalter, tried to get a grand jury investigation of the cover-up. She was rebuffed repeatedly by the presiding judge, Angelo Santaniello who, it later became clear, was best friends with the leading suspect. Santaniello then referred Showalter to prosecutor Satti, who happened to be his former law partner. Satti refused to acknowledge registered letters from Mrs. Showalter pleading for a grand jury probe.
Satti did finally meet with Mrs. Showalter in 1978, after Judge Joseph Dannehy of Willimantic, acting as a one-man grand jury, named former New London Mayor Harvey N. Mallove as the probable driver of the hit-run vehicle. Satti called the three-hour meeting, in which he repeatedly told Mrs. Showalter that there never should have been a grand jury investigation under Dannehy.
Mallove held a good hand; he had the best legal muscle in New London County on his side. New London police would not question him for more than seven months, and then only in a perfunctory manner. They would say they inspected his cars, but they did not. Significantly, Mallove's Lincoln had been repaired, but it wasn't until state police took over the case four years after the accident that the fender was finally seized.
Santaniello would arrange for a coroner's inquest and put his niece in charge of typing the transcript. Only after two years of intense public pressure would the transcript be typed. But the inquest never issued a finding.
Santaniello tipped off Mallove that he was a suspect. The judge was also aware of what local police knew about the case. Mrs. Showalter memorialized the admissions in tape-recorded telephone conversations.
"I did talk to Harvey," Santaniello told Mrs. Showalter on Oct. 17, 1975, "and I said, `You're suspected.' As a matter of fact, at that time a police officer came to him on the same day or the next day, and told him you were making accusations about him and that he was a prime suspect." The day before, Mallove told Mrs. Showalter, "Judge Santaniello is of the opinion that you fingered me."
It was not until 1977 that state police, who took over the case at the behest of former Gov. Ella Grasso, formally named Mallove a suspect. Next week, I'll propose a means to solve the Showalter cover-up.
Showalter Cover-Up Is New London's Shame
New London, where I grew up and began working in the 1960s and '70s, was a dirty little city with character.
It had a restaurant called the Hygienic that was everything but. There were at least a couple bars where the cops couldn't do anything, except maybe a little business.
The top pimp in town never went to jail until he was about 60 and a certain court official retired.
New London will always be the city that tried to cover up the Christmas Eve 1973 hit-and-run death of Kevin B. Showalter. It's been doing a pretty good job for nearly 27 years, but the onion is beginning to peel.
The local daily newspaper admitted -- in its official history published this year -- that it did a shoddy job on the Showalter case. Specifically, The Day admitted its failure to explore the relationship between a former mayor and a top judge, and their influence on the course of the criminal investigation. That's a beginning.
Political and police corruption goes back a couple generations in New London. By the 1970s, New London police were widely known to be involved in the selling of women, dope and refrigerators, among other things. A federal grand jury took note. But as with the Showalter case, there were these little problems with the evidence.
A jewelry store owner and former city mayor multi-millionaire Harvey Mallove was the prime suspect in the hit-and-run death of Showalter, a student at Mitchell College. Showalter's date that night, Christmas Eve 1973, said she saw nothing from her vantage point six feet away, sitting on a stone wall under a streetlight on a residential street as a young man changed the tire of her car.
Harvey was everybody's pal. He would take kids to the Super Bowl, then, down the road, get them jobs as cops. He was friends with bums in the street and bums in high political office. He was wired. The standing joke among reporters became: Harvey's a great guy to have a beer with, just don't change your tire if he's driving by.
"I didn't kill the kid in any way, shape or form," Harvey told me many times. As mayor, Harvey helped hire a few police chiefs. His best friend was the administrative judge for the county; that was the judge who controlled the early stages of the investigation, specifically a coroner's inquest that never issued a finding.
State police followed up a report that Mallove's best friend, County Administrative Judge Angelo G. Santaniello, was with Mallove on Christmas Eve 1973. Santaniello reportedly was No. 11 on a guest list for a party at the home of his political mentor, the late state Sen. Peter Mariani. The Mariani party was one of two Mallove attended that night.
Santaniello told reporters he never went out on Christmas Eve.
Another state judge, Joseph F. Dannehy, conducted two grand jury investigations. In 1978, Dannehy named Mallove as the probable driver of the hit-run vehicle, but said evidence that might have ensured conviction was either mishandled or destroyed.
Mallove died a few years ago with this legacy. Others still have time to come clean and tell the truth about the cover-up. Mrs. Showalter tried unsuccessfully to have Satti, Santaniello and others prosecuted for hindrance of prosecution (CGS Section 53a-166) warning of impending discovery, providing means of avoiding discovery, preventing discovery by deception. Because a conspiracy to hinder prosecution is an ongoing crime, those with information could tell Chief State's Attorney John Bailey, who has begun an initiative to solve some of the state's cold homicide cases.
Isn't it time? No one kept the system honest when it counted, though some tried. Most stood by as the system that was supposed to protect the victim and his family betrayed them all.
Where is the conscience of the community?
Cold Case On Ice Forever
One way to deflect attention from a suspect is to get investigators involved in meaningless, time-consuming tasks. Another way is to create a bogus suspect who is then exposed as such, causing a belief that the case is just too hazy to pursue.
Both of these devices were used repeatedly in the cover-up of the Showalter hit-run case in New London. Whether this was happenstance, indifference, incompetence or malfeasance, the result was the same. The system failed.
And now, it seems, the truth will remain buried forever.
Judge Joseph F. Dannehy, the grand juror who investigated the case, wrote in his finding of fact: "After December 25, 1973, the New London Police Department did virtually nothing to solve the hit-run death of Kevin B. Showalter." The accident occurred the night before.
Local police and court officials, however, were pro-active in another sense. Their actions served to protect the assailant.
For example, New London police claimed it would cost as much as $1,200 to trace vehicles using data from the state Motor Vehicle Department. The motor vehicle department declared there was no such charge.
Nevertheless, New London police spent their time hand-sorting local motor vehicle cards. They looked for a green Chrysler. That was likely a false lead; state police said paint particles found on the victim's clothing did not come from the car that killed him.
Former Mayor Harvey Mallove began meeting informally with police and court officials as early as Dec. 25, 1973. Mallove wanted to know what the police knew.
The only lead after two and a half years was quashed by then New London Common Pleas Court Prosecutor Harold Dean in May 1976. The lead was a letter of confession written by a Somers prison inmate to the victim's mother, Lucille Showalter.
"I told Harold how important that was to me," Mallove, the prime suspect, confided to an associate. He also acknowledged discussing the purported confession with his best friend, the presiding judge for the county, Angelo Santaniello.
The author of the letter was known to be connected with "fences," or purveyors of stolen goods in the New London area. State police arrested him for harassment of Mrs. Showalter. Two state troopers met with Dean for an hour. They told him the letter contained possibly significant information. State police also believed they could connect the dots in New London between the letter writer and the powers-that-be. Did he owe some favors? Was he paid? Police knew the author had no liability for the accident; he was actually in Florida at the time of the hit-run.
Dean nolled and dismissed the case without telling the troopers or Mallove. Soon thereafter, state police listed the killing of Showalter as "closed pending further development." Upon learning of Dean's action, Chief State's Attorney Joseph Gormley remarked he had "no idea" why the lead, "which very well could have led to something," resulted in a dead end. The case would remain closed for six months, until Gov. Ella Grasso brought the matter to Justice John Cotter.
Was there criminal activity connected with the Showalter cover-up? It appears we will never know for certain. Dannehy named Mallove as the probable driver, noting that evidence which might have ensured conviction was destroyed. The Chief State's Attorney's Office reviewed aspects of the case this fall after a series of columns appeared in The Law Tribune. However, the statute of limitations for the most likely potential charge, conspiracy to hinder prosecution of motor vehicle misconduct, has expired. This shameful case, it appears, is destined to stay on ice forever.
Smolinski case, ongoing, Waterbury:
Friday, Sept. 14, 2007
We first told you about Billy Smolinski a year ago. He disappeared from his Waterbury, Conn. home in August, 2004 after breaking up with his girlfriend.
CBS News Correspondent Bianca Solorzano got an update from investigators, and the missing man's family.
Smolinsksi was 31 when he vanished.
He had just returned from a trip to Florida with his girlfriend. The next night, he told his sister that his girlfriend was having an affair with a local politician. They argued and broke up.
Smolinski's sister, Paula Bell recalls that, "I said, 'Well, what are you going to do" And he just said, 'What am I going to do?'"
Authorities say Smolinski was last seen at his home. His next-door neighbor says he asked him to watch his dog for a few days, because he was headed north to look at a car he wanted to buy. His truck was found in his driveway, his keys and wallet were under his front seat.
That, says Solorzano, is where Smolinski's trail ends.
The FBI calls it a difficult case.
"Essentially," says Special Agent Bill Aldenberg, "the man just disappeared off the face of the Earth."
He says there's been no sign of Smolinski but, "There are suspects, based on tips and based on interviews and based on investigations that we've conducted."
The bureau was tipped off and, in the spring, searched in Shelton, about 20 miles from Waterbury. Agensts looked for evidence near several homes, dug up a driveway, and also searched near a river, but found nothing.
The Smolinskis, Solorzano points out, have never stopped searching.
They posted thousands of missing person flyers but, in a strange twist, found Smolinski's ex-girlfriend tearing them down.
At the time, local police say, she was not a suspect.