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Help sought to solve 43-year-old cold case

Help sought to solve 43-year-old cold case

Victim was 17-year-old SUNY Cobleskill student
Help sought to solve 43-year-old cold case
Katherine Kolodziej was a freshman at SUNY Cobleskill when she disappeared Nov. 2, 1974.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

COBLESKILL — Two weeks after authorities in Schenectady County announced the closure of a 22-year-old cold case, state police in Schoharie County Tuesday highlighted one nearly twice as old, hoping it can also be resolved.

Officials from the state police Tuesday conducted a press conference near a Route 7 billboard that features a photo of 17-year-old Katherine Kolodziej and a plea for information to help solve her 1974 killing.

Kolodziej was a freshman at SUNY Cobleskill when she disappeared Nov. 2, 1974. Police found her nearly naked body that Thanksgiving. She had been stabbed to death.

Now, 43 years later, the state police are still searching for her killer. The billboard, funded through the Schoharie County District Attorney's Office, is situated between the college Kolodziej once attended and the location where her body was found, near the intersection of MacDonald and Cross Hill roads.

The billboard effort follows a similar one five years ago that was posted on the other side of Cobleskill. The new billboard went up earlier this month and is to be up for two months.

State police Investigator David Ayers has had the case since last year, the latest in a line of investigators who have tried to solve it.

"I think anything is possible," Ayers said, "but I am going to need the public's help because I think there's information out there that hasn't gotten to us yet."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-313-TIPS.

Ayers is reviewing the entire case, including more than four decades of paperwork. He's seeking to re-interview old witnesses and find new leads.

He's also speaking with the state crime lab about evidence in the case to see if maybe DNA remains that could lead to the person who killed her. Maybe advances in DNA analysis could find something, he said.

"We're in discussions on possibly resubmitting evidence that has already been tested years ago, just because of how far along DNA has come," Ayers said.

Kolodziej was last seen at the Vault Bar and Grill in Cobleskill around 1:30 a.m. Nov. 2, 1974, according to police. The bar building, situated at the corner of Main and North Grand streets, is now an office.

Police said Kolodziej didn't return to campus with her roommate, who left at midnight, telling her she planned to return with a friend instead. But she never did.

Police were alerted to a red shoe found near Cross Hill Road in Richmondville the day before Thanksgiving. As police organized a search in the area the next day, a hunter stopped and alerted investigators to a red object he'd seen in a nearby field.

Not long afterward, police discovered Kolodziej's body on a rock wall not far from the intersection of MacDonald and Cross Hill roads. The red item seen by the hunter was Kolodziej's coat, the only thing she was wearing.

The Long Island native, a freshman and aspiring veterinarian, had been in Schoharie County for only 60 days when she was killed, police said.

Authorities in Schenectady County solved the 1995 killing of 17-year-old Suzanne Nauman through fresh eyes. 

A state police investigator, working with a city police detective on the cold case, noticed a newspaper editorial that compared the Nauman case to another murder. That proved to be the key. DNA then solved the case for good.

There has been speculation over the years in the Kolodziej case that her death was connected to others. A 1982 Gazette story cited now-dead Johnstown serial killer John Hopkins as a possible suspect. But, by then, police had dismissed him and five other prime suspects investigated over the first eight years as most likely not involved.

Ayers declined to discuss any suspects Tuesday.

"I'm not ruling anything out," he said.

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