Stabbing victim IDs attacker years later

Posted

Thursday, July 5
HINSDALE, N.H. -- Every time she drives to work, Jane Boroski passes by the convenience store parking lot where she was stabbed multiple times by a stranger the night of Aug. 6, 1988.

She could go another route, but this is her way of accepting the past, she says. Sometimes, she even shops there.

Not only did Boroski, who was seven months pregnant at the time, survive -- she counted 27 stab wounds -- so did her baby girl. So, too, did the nightmares and the fear of knowing her attacker was still out there.

The crime was never solved, just like a series of similar, but fatal stabbings during the 1980s of young women in the rural Connecticut River Valley shared by Vermont and New Hampshire. The sketch Boroski gave police was a hopeful lead, but no one was ever charged. And to this day, it's never been proven that any of the attacks were committed by the same person or people.

"A lot of years have gone by," said Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Prozzo, who was a police detective in Claremont when the killings started. "We spent a lot of time and a lot of energy, and it's sad to see that nothing has really come to fruition. It's not for lack of trying."

But things have changed dramatically for Boroski, now 41. Last year, evidence marshaled by a private investigator convinced her of her attacker's identity: a Vietnam veteran who killed his family and himself in Florida on New Year's Eve 2005.

"I have no doubt in my mind," she said.

She hopes her revelation will shed light on the other cold cases and end two decades of fear and frustration around the region.

"I want to go to every single grave and put roses down and think, 'Now you can rest in peace,'" she said.

Relatives of some of the other victims want the man, Michael Nicholaou, ruled in or out, as well. But it's not that easy.

"There are often difficulties in older cases as far as locating the evidence and the condition of it," said Jeff Strelzin, head of the homicide unit in the New Hampshire Attorney General's office. "And the last thing is, were samples obtained that are actually useful? Twenty years ago the technology was different than it exists today, so 20 years ago, people didn't take swabs for DNA like they do now. And things aren't necessarily stored in such a way that they would be useful for the testing we can do today."

Some fingerprint-testing has been done in Boroski's case, but it has been inconclusive, a detective who works on the case as time allows told her.

In Vermont, authorities have done forensic work involving Nicholaou and two unsolved stabbing deaths, said Lt. Detective Kraig LaPorte of the Vermont State Police.

"We don't have any forensic evidence that links Nicholaou to either," he said. However, "I can't say that we can rule him out."

***

Right after her attack, they started.

"I had nightmares of driving down the road and seeing his vehicle go the opposite way," Boroski said. "That went on for a long time." Sometimes, he'd be laughing at her.

Right before the attack, she was returning from the county fair in Keene, where friends had helped her win some stuffed animals for the baby. She stopped at the closed store in West Swanzey to get a soda from a vending machine. As she was sitting in her car, a man came by, asked her whether the phone worked, then grabbed her. During the struggle, he said something to her about how she beat up his girlfriend, then asked if her car was from Massachusetts. Eventually, he left, leaving her to die. She somehow was able to drive to a friend's house and get help.

Going on with her life has been difficult at times. "In the past three years, I've been hospitalized twice for depression, suicidal," Boroski said. "(The) attack has changed me. Totally. Angry. I'm angry at many, many things."

One of them is seeing the struggles of her daughter, Jessica, now 18, who developed a mild case of cerebral palsy and has some problems with speech, learning and motor skills.

"I've tried to make life normal for my kids," said Boroski, a medical supply company worker who also has a 13-year-old son. "But it's always been in the back of my mind. Who did this? When is he going to get caught? Is he going to get caught? Is he dead? Is he in jail?"

Early last year, out of the blue, she received a package with information about Nicholaou, a 56-year-old drifter who had killed his estranged wife, stepdaughter, and himself just weeks before. It came from Lynn-Marie Carty, a private investigator in St. Petersburg, Fla., who once investigated him.

Several years ago, a friend in Vermont had asked Carty to find her daughter, Michelle Ashley, who had married Nicholaou, had two children with him -- then vanished in 1988. The family had been living in Holyoke, Mass., at the time, but had done a lot of moving around in New England, Virginia and Louisiana through the years.

"She was leaving him forever, she was petrified of him, and she told her mother, 'Mom he's going to kill me, so if he does, track him down and find the kids.' This was four months before she went missing forever," Carty said.

Carty knew a lot about the family because Michelle kept notes in baby books: what hospital they were in, what family members visited, where they traveled. She also had spoken with a lot of people who knew Nicholaou: old girlfriends, war buddies, family. She eventually tracked him down and had a terse phone call with him in 2001 in which he said Michelle had left him and the children. The next day, his number was disconnected.

Information about Nicholaou often led Carty back to New England. A few days after reading about his death, she decided to search the Web, and learned about Boroski's stabbing, as well as the Connecticut River Valley murders.

That got her thinking.

"You know that the exact time that Jane Boroski was attacked, Michael Nicholaou and Michelle Nicholaou were fighting, and she packed up the kids and ran away," Carty said. "He was driving up the same highway looking for her in Holderness, New Hampshire, in Tunbridge, Vermont, and then back in Massachusetts he found her and he convinced her to go back with him. In the baby books they're back together on Aug. 21 because they're celebrating their daughter's second birthday."

She sent Boroski the package.

"It's not the first time in 18 years that I've been approached by someone who said, 'I know who did this to you.' So I was apprehensive," Boroski recalled. The two started a correspondence that has since developed into a friendship.

Carty started a timeline on Nicholaou's whereabouts that became increasingly detailed as she gained access to his laptop computer and a storage unit that contained personal items, including some photos of Nicholaou. She e-mailed the photos to Boroski.

"That clinched it for me," she said.

***

John Philpin, a criminal profiler who had worked on the cases in the 1980s, believes Nicholaou was capable of committing the crimes.

Philpin said he spoke to several people who served with Nicholaou in Vietnam. "Some were peers, some were superior officers, and some of them liked him in the sense that they got along with him, trusted him as a pilot; he was responsible that way.

"But they all pretty much had the same reaction to him: that this was a guy who brought baggage with him to Vietnam. He didn't learn it when he got to Vietnam. And the baggage was that he enjoyed killing. He liked to kill. And it became an extracurricular activity for him. When he wasn't in the helicopter, piloting around to shoot people, he'd go off" and find other opportunities, Philpin said.

Nicholaou was one of eight helicopter crewmen charged with murder in 1971 for strafing civilians while on a flight in the Mekong Delta in 1970. The charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence. After his service, Nicholaou was treated for posttramautic stress disorder.

He worked a series of jobs, including running a porn shop in Charlottesville, Va., in 1983. He and his business partner were convicted once of selling obscene material; he was acquitted after a second raid.

"Evidently the police don't have enough serious robberies, murders and rapes to occupy their time," he told a newspaper in 1984.

Earlier this year, authorities in central Virginia said Nicholaou was a possible suspect in a 1984 rape along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A man who had served more than 10 years for the crime, Edward Honaker, was freed after DNA tests proved he was not the attacker.

Carty, who did extensive work on that case, found evidence that Nicholaou had once lived near the scene. She also found an old photo of Honaker and compared it to Nicholaou; the two could be twins.

Philpin said Michelle Nicholaou's disappearance after Boroski's attack also makes him a suspect. "It was right down the road in Mount Holyoke," he said. "Are we to believe that she voluntarily takes off?"

Philpin spent considerable time with Boroski after she was attacked, at times putting her under hypnosis to see if she could remember more details.

"That face to her at the time, I remember thinking at the time, she's not ever going to forget that. The dialogue, the conversation, that was another thing -- it was just so vivid. I couldn't imagine her being able to get that out of her head."

***

After reaching Boroski, Carty started contacting family members of the women who were killed in the Connecticut River Valley. The timeline suggested that Nicholaou was in New England as early as October 1978, when a woman who had been stabbed repeatedly was found dead in the New London area, just outside the valley.

Anna Agnew, whose sister, Barbara, was killed in 1987, helped Carty send packages of information to other families.

Agnew, a social worker who lives near Baltimore, would like some answers on Nicholaou, too. She points to his life -- how he was abused as a child, once set fire to a neighbor's car after his son was pushed, and his conduct in Vietnam. She believes the chances are "slim to none that there could be two men like this or two adults like this with this clinical background and the skill level" to commit the crimes.

Chris Moore, the son of Lynda Moore, who was found dead in her home in Westminster, Vt., on April 15, 1986, the victim of more than 20 stab wounds, says there are pros and cons to the Nicholaou theory.

"Nicholaou has dark skin and dark hair with a round face. This is not consistent with the composite sketch made contemporaneously with Jane's attack (however it is consistent with the composite made of the man spotted in my driveway at the time of my mom's murder)," Moore said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Furthermore, Jane dismissed Nicholaou as her attacker when she was shown multiple pictures of him earlier in 2006. ... Jane is a sweet person who earnestly believes she is right, but as the only witness to my mom's attacker, I hope she remains objective."

Boroski said it was a series of photos that gradually led her to identify Nicholaou, and she had never been satisfied with the sketch drawn from her description.

Moore, a lawyer in Bellows Falls, Vt., said there are "huge gaps in between the dots the investigator has asked us to connect. But there are no clear contradictions, either. If this man were alive and standing trial today, he certainly would not be convicted on the evidence that I have seen."

Some family members did not respond to the packages. One of them was Gretchen Fried, whose sister, Ellen, a nurse, failed to show up for work at a Claremont hospital in July 1984. Her remains were found in September 1985 on a riverbank in Newport.

"I just kind of felt like it was over," Gretchen Fried said in a brief interview from her home in Washington state. "There was nothing that I could do that would change things," she said, starting to cry.

"I don't think it was him," said Marie Crocker of Keene, sister of Eva Morse, who was last seen hitchhiking on Route 12 between Charlestown and Claremont on July 10, 1985. Morse's remains were found in April 1986, in woods several miles away from Route 12.

***

Vials containing Nicholaou's blood are stored at the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office in Tampa, Fla. Axel LaPorte, a toxicologist, said he received a law-enforcement query on the samples earlier this year from New England. But to date, no one has filed any paperwork requesting Nicholaou's DNA, he said. In the meantime, Trina Reddick, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said that a DNA profile of Nicholaou has been entered into CODIS, a national database, allowing law-enforcement officers to make comparisons to existing profiles to see if there is a match.

"The caveat to all this is that sometimes the material doesn't exist anymore or it may be degraded to the point we can't get full or any results," Strelzin cautioned Boroski in an e-mail provided to the AP.

Strelzin said in the note that authorities may be able to use Nicholaou's profile in other cases. "As far as your claim that you and the rest of the victims were all attacked by the same person, that may be possible. However, there is no conclusive evidence that is the case and another attacker or attackers cannot be ruled out yet."

Earlier, he confirmed to the AP that in addition to Nicholaou, there were a couple of potential "persons of interest" in the murders.

Boroski is frustrated. Many months after reaching her conclusion, she has no answers.

"I'm not some file number up in Concord. This happened to me. I waited 18 years. And I believe I deserve some closure. Most definitely I deserve it. The families of those other victims deserve an answer," she said.

Strelzin said he understands, but Boroski's case, and the others, have to be worked on between all current cases.

"She wants to know things and we can't tell her everything, we just can't do that with cases that are still open. You can't assume that it's Mr. Nicholaou and then, what if it isn't? What if it isn't him and the case is solved at some point? Anything we've done to taint her as a witness will come back to haunt us."

Boroski said there's no way she is mistaken.

"You just know. I just know it was him."


    Copyright © 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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