the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Hackensack NJ, Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo and Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced today the creation of a Cold Case Homicide Unit (“the Unit”) within the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office (“BCPO”) and the charging of a defendant in a 1999 cold case. The Unit is a joint effort between the BCPO under the direction of Chief Robert Anzilotti and the New Jersey State Police (“NJSP”) under the direction of Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, and is dedicated exclusively to the review of cold case homicides in Bergen County.
The Cold Case Homicide Unit is currently reviewing more than 90 cold cases dating back the 1950’s. The Unit resides within the BCPO Major Crimes Unit and consists of one Prosecutor’s Office Detective Sergeant, an on-loan Detective from the New Jersey State Police Major Crimes Unit, and a dedicated Senior Assistant Prosecutor.
In March 2018, as the result of the resubmission of evidence to the NJSP Office of Forensic Sciences and advancements in forensic technology, the Unit developed a suspect in the 1999 homicide of Hyo J. Lee (DOB: 10/17/65; employed at a nail salon). Ms. Lee left her home at 37 North Dean Street in Englewood just after midnight on Sunday, July 4, 1999 to go for a walk. She was sexually assaulted and murdered, and her body was found later that morning behind a dumpster in Englewood.
Upon review of the case file, members of the Cold Case Unit resubmitted evidence to the NJSP Office of Forensic Sciences in Hamilton, NJ, which was able to create a DNA profile of the killer. That newly developed DNA profile was uploaded to a national DNA database, and JOSE COLON, a.k.a., Luis Chavez, was identified. COLON had been arrested in Cleveland, Ohio in 1999 for a similar crime but in which the victim survived.
Jose COLON has been charged for the Englewood homicide with Murder and Sexual Assault and entered into a nationwide law enforcement database as a Fugitive from Justice. COLON was deported from the United States in 2005 to his native Nicaragua after serving time in Ohio State Prison for the 1999 Cleveland assault. The Unit is working with federal authorities and the United States Department of Justice to locate COLON and extradite him to the United States to stand trial for the murder.
“When a crime goes unsolved – especially a serious crime like murder or rape – justice is denied, victims and survivors lack closure, and a dangerous criminal may be left free to victimize others,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Beyond that, society is harmed, because our faith in justice and our sense of security under the rule of law are shaken. As New Jersey’s top law enforcement officer, pursuing justice for all is my top priority, and this new cold case unit is an outstanding example of law enforcement diligently pursuing justice.”
Acting Prosecutor Calo stated, “This Cold Case Homicide Unit is testament that the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office does not forget the victims of violent crimes no matter how much time passes, and that we will dedicate the energy and resources to bring justice to those victims whenever possible.”
In announcing the new unit with Acting Prosecutor Calo and the State Police, Attorney General Grewal discussed the importance of these specialized units and outlined a plan to encourage other counties to implement such units to focus personnel and resources on investigating and solving cold cases. In April, the Attorney General announced the creation of a panel, led by the Honorable Virginia Long, former Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, and former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman, to advise on establishing a statewide Cold Case Unit in the Attorney General’s Office, as well as a Conviction Review Unit, which would review credible claims of innocence regarding defendants convicted of serious crimes. The panel is expected to make recommendations by September.
Acting Prosecutor Calo additionally states that the charges against Jose COLON are only accusations and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and would like to thank the Englewood Police Department and the United States Department of Justice for their assistance with this investigation.