SCHENECTADY — Authorities on Monday publicly identified the man they believe killed 17-year-old Suzanne Nauman and left her body on a city golf course in 1995, a man who killed himself in prison in 1997.
Suzanne Nauman (left) and Stanislaw Maciag. (Photos provided)
Authorities also said they believe that same man, Stanislaw Maciag, was responsible for the killing of Phyllis Harvey, who disappeared the month before Nauman’s death. Harvey’s body wasn’t discovered until March 1996.
Maciag, who was 37 when he died, was previously a suspect in Harvey’s death, but he killed himself while serving another sentence before authorities could build the murder case.
The conclusion comes after a cold case review that was helped by an old Daily Gazette editorial that linked Maciag’s and Harvey’s cases. Both victims suffered from drug addiction and had worked as prostitutes, but there were other similarities.
State police Investigator Kevin Noto, who teamed with city police Investigator Mari Fargoso on the case, read the editorial while reviewing the circumstances of Nauman’s murder and was inspired by the similarities between the cases. After further investigation supported their suspicions, investigators won the right to exhume Maciag’s body to obtain DNA that could be compared with DNA found under Nauman’s fingernails and on a shoe found at the murder scene.
The DNA matched both, according to District Attorney Robert Carney.
Police and prosecutors released the new information to close Nauman’s case, but also to clear a man who was once charged in connection with her death.
In April 1996, police identified Nauman’s then-boyfriend, Keith J. Gauvreau, as her killer and charged him. Prosecutors, however, did not pursue the case because crucial evidence indicated the now-52-year-old was not the killer.
“It is true that Mr. Maciag cannot defend himself from these allegations,” Carney said at the Monday morning news conference. “So, one might at least raise the question of fairness. But in my estimation, any issue of fairness is far outweighed by the reasons favoring public disclosure.
“Keith Gauvreau has committed crimes and paid for them, but he did not murder Suzanne Nauman. He was falsely accused of this crime, and we need to publicly acknowledge his innocence.”
Gauvreau went to prison for manslaughter for throwing a drunk man down a stairwell in October 1995. That victim later died.
City police, state police and prosecutors were all credited with helping to bring the Nauman case to a close. City police Sgt. Dan Kane was credited with selecting the case for review.
Police Chief Eric Clifford, state police Troop G Commander Robert Patnaude and others were on hand for Monday’s announcement at the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office.
State police Troop G Commander Robert Patnaude talks about the case Monday at the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office. (Marc Schultz)
Nauman’s murder shocked the city, both for the details of the slaying and the details of Nauman’s rough 17-year life.
She had fallen into drugs and prostitution, those who knew her said. Her grandfather told The Daily Gazette after her death that the last time he spoke with her she appeared high.
Nauman had a child who was 10 months old at the time of Nauman’s death. The baby had been placed in foster care months before Nauman’s murder, family said at the time.
Nauman spent some of her early life in foster care. In the wake of her death, county social services officials said they offered services and did everything they could to get her help.
Phyllis Harvey. (Provided)
Harvey went missing in April 1995, but her decomposed body wasn’t discovered until March 1996 on the back porch of a Mont Pleasant apartment.
Maciag, who was the previous tenant of the apartment, was named as the main suspect in that case. He had sole access to the porch and told a friend about a body the previous summer, Carney said. He fled the apartment two months before the landlord discovered the body.
Arrested on other charges — including violating his probation for a 1992 sexual abuse conviction — police built their case against Maciag in connection with Harvey’s death.
Friends said Harvey resorted to prostitution to support her heroin habit. She was 37 when she went missing.
Maciag’s suicide effectively closed the Harvey case, and the evidence has since been destroyed, Carney said. He noted that DNA evidence of Maciag’s involvement in Harvey’s death likely would have been difficult to find, as her body was on that porch for so long.
Before hanging himself with a bed sheet in his cell, Maciag allegedly told another inmate, “I’ve done a lot of bad things, and I have to pay,” Carney said.
In addition to the Nauman and Harvey murders, investigators now believe Maciag’s list of crimes included an August 1992 sexual abuse case and the rape in July 1995 of a woman who was attacked on Crane Street. A grand jury indicted Maciag in the latter case, but he died before it could be prosecuted.
In the 1992 case, he picked up a woman in Schenectady and took her to Glenville, where he attacked her. He was sentenced to probation, which he violated by abandoning the apartment where Harvey’s body was found. He was in prison for the parole violation when he killed himself.
The gravesite of Stanislaw Maciag in St. Adalbert’s Cemetery in Rotterdam, which was exhumed. (Marc Schultz)
Maciag immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1986, authorities said after his 1996 arrest. He is also believed to have lived in Connecticut. Police and prosecutors have notified authorities where Maciag previously lived and reviewed other local cases.
They have found no connections to other attacks, Carney said. He added that the disorganized nature of the Nauman and Harvey murders make it unlikely that there is another undiscovered murder victim out there.
Carney credited Noto’s “fresh eyes” with making the connection between the two murders. When Harvey’s body was discovered, police were already preparing to arrest Gauvreau in connection with Nauman’s death.
Police based charges against Gauvreau on threats he made that evening. Also, he was the last person confirmed to be with her, and two inmates said he confessed, Carney said.
However, the inmates’ accounts couldn’t be corroborated. The details they provided were all public. And most importantly, the shoe didn’t fit.
A laceless shoe found near Nauman’s body matched an impression next to her body. The wear on the laces used to strangle Nauman matched the size 8 1/2 shoe.
Gauvreau, who wore a size 11, always maintained that he and Nauman parted ways that night, and that he saw her being picked up by an unknown man on Albany Street.
Authorities now believe the man Gauvreau reported seeing was Maciag and he had picked up Nauman with an offer to pay for sex.
The case stagnated until 2014, though it remained on investigators’ minds.
Clifford traced interest in the Nauman case back several years, to an interview with retired police detective Roy Edwardsen, who has since passed away. He was invited several years ago to provide insight into cold cases, and he told investigators the Nauman case was one he regretted being unable to solve.
Suzanne Nauman was killed in the wooded section at the end of Oregon Avenue. (Marc Schultz)
But in October 2014, the state police Forensic Investigation Center notified police that technology had advanced enough to find a DNA profile from scrapings found under Nauman’s fingernails.
Compared with the state DNA database, the check found no matches. The check also excluded Gauvreau, whose DNA was in the system.
After Maciag’s name surfaced from Noto’s reading of The Daily Gazette editorial, investigators realized the similarities between the two killings were striking.
Both women were killed with a ligature, tied on the same side. Nauman’s attack occurred in the same time frame as Harvey’s murder and the July rape. Also, Maciag had previously been convicted of sexual abuse.
And, the shoe fit.
A search of Maciag’s prison cell on March 26, 1996, recorded among the items taken a pair of shoes. Their size: 8 1/2, Carney said.
Investigators didn’t make the connection at the time, as Gauvreau was the main suspect in Nauman’s murder, said Carney, who was also the district attorney at the time of both killings.
“I kick myself for not seeing that connection,” Carney said. “We should have seen it. But we were focused on Keith Gauvreau.”
The gravesite of Suzanne Nauman in Vale Cemetry in Schenectady. (Marc Schultz)
With their new suspect on the table, they needed Maciag’s DNA. Since his 1992 conviction preceded the creation of the DNA database, his profile was not in the system.
Investigators tracked down relatives of Maciag and asked if they would provide samples. Three of them did, and tests on those samples showed a strong likelihood that a relative of theirs was the killer.
With that, investigators in June won a search warrant to exhume Maciag’s body from his Rotterdam burial site. By the end of August, investigators learned that Maciag’s DNA matched the killer’s.
The chance that DNA recovered from under Nauman’s fingernails, as well as DNA extracted from the shoe, came from someone other than Maciag are 1 in 320 billion, Carney said.
“The reason we can close this case is because a 17-year-old girl, fighting for her life, buried her fingernails in the skin of her murderer and gave us the evidence of his guilt all these many years later,” Carney said. “She lost that struggle for her life, but in doing so, she revealed to us her killer.”