(Host) A DNA database promoted by the parents of murder victim Patricia Scoville has led to the arrest of a suspect in her killing. Scoville was sexually assaulted and killed in 1991 while hiking in Stowe. The case was one of the state’s longest unsolved murders. Her parents, David and Ann Scoville, became national advocates for a DNA registry.
Authorities say it was DNA evidence that led to the arrest of a Kirby man for the murder. The suspect, Howard G. Godfrey, was arraigned on Thursday in Vermont District Court.
VPR’s John Dillon was there:
(Sound of leg irons as the accused entered the courtroom.)
(Dillon) Howard Godfrey was surrounded by sheriff’s deputies as he shuffled into court wearing handcuffs and leg irons.
(Sound from courtroom) “All rise! The matter before the court is state of Vermont versus Howard G. Godfrey….”
(Dillon) Godfrey, who is 58, appeared wearing blue jeans and a tan shirt. The courtroom was packed with police, the victim’s family and friends. Godfrey didn’t address the court. His lawyer, Lee Dow, entered his plea.
(Dow) “Mr. Godfrey would make the standard waivers, your honor, and plead not guilty.”
(Dillon) Judge Howard Van Benthuysen ordered Godfrey held without bail on aggravated murder charges.
Outside the Hyde Park courthouse, Attorney General William Sorrell stood next to David and Ann Scoville, the parents of the 28-year-old murder victim. Sorrell and the family wore large buttons showing a picture of a smiling Patricia Scoville.
Sorrell said he could not go into the details of the investigation, beyond the allegations laid out in court documents. But he said police and prosecutors remained focused on the case for years.
(Sorrell) “I can tell you that few if any days have gone by in the last 14 years that someone in law enforcement in Vermont has not been thinking about working on this case. We’re very pleased to get to this point today. We’ve got a lot of work left to do and we intend to do it.”
(Dillon) Scoville disappeared in October 1991 near Moss Glen Falls in Stowe. She was found – sexually assaulted and strangled – after an eight-day search. Court documents allege that DNA samples collected from Scoville’s body match Godfrey’s own unique genetic markers. The state alleges that Godfrey lived near Stowe at the time of the 1991 murder.
Godfrey’s DNA was placed in a state and national database after his conviction of a 1996 assault on a young woman in Morrisville. Godfrey’s DNA was sent to the Vermont crime lab in January 2000.
Sorrell would not explain why it took more than four years to make the match between Godfrey’s DNA and a sample collected from Scoville’s clothes. During some of that time, Godfrey was free on parole from the 1996 assault.
(Sorrell) “I think there’s plenty of information in the public record – legislative hearings and such – about the issues, funding issues and such that have had an impact on law enforcement generally and on DNA collection and processing issues specifically.”
(Dillon) After Patricia Scoville’s murder, her parents worked to establish the state DNA database. Former Stowe Police Chief Ken Libby said the parents, along with Republican former state representative Kathy Voyer from Morrisville, deserve much of the credit for Godfrey’s arrest.
(Libby) “Ann and David Scoville are why this case got solved. If they had not stood up to the Vermont Legislature and said, ‘We need a DNA database,’ it would not have happened. And the third person is Kathy Voyer. Kathy put her head out on a limb to get this passed.”
(Dillon) David Scoville thanked law enforcement for their work over the past 14 years.
(David Scoville) “We appreciate the work and efforts of so many people that’s gone into today’s arraignment. We feel both relieved by overwhelmed and we really do not want to make any further comments at this time.”
(Dillon) Sorrell said the investigation in the case continues.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Hyde Park.