COBLESKILL, N.Y. – For nearly four decades investigators have been working to solve the murder of a teenage woman found stabbed to death just miles away from the SUNY Cobleskill Campus in 1974.
Kathy Kolodziej, 17, an only-child from Long Island, NY was away from home for just 60 days before she was killed. For the first time, police are releasing new details including crime scene photos to NEWS10 in an effort to get the tip they need to solve the case.
Almost 38-years to the day, Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond shows NEWS10 the place where he and others found Kolodziej's body.
Desmond says he has become a bit "obsessed" with solving the case.
"It was just today, I came up here and there was a white cross, and I have no idea what that is. There's no writing on it," Desmond said walking towards the rock wall off the intersection of McDonald Road and Cross Hill Road in Richmondville.
It was Thanksgiving Day in 1974, when investigators found her body near a stone wall in a wooded area. Desmond says he was just a deputy then.
"It was right in here. Where this tree is, this black cherry tree, she was laid face up with her feet that way," Desmond describes. "It looked like somebody cared about her and tried to place her that way and cover her up and keep her body from being exposed to the elements.
"The guy had put her coat over her to give the feeling that she's not just a person laying out here nude in the field," he said.
The Sheriff says he still comes here hoping the person responsible will come back.
"Why can't this guy get caught and why did it happen to a young 17-year-old girl like this?" Desmond asks.
Kathy was studying animal husbandry at SUNY Cobleskill. Investigators say she went missing on November 2, 1974 after a night out with friends in downtown Cobleskill. They believe she was killed that night.
Both Kathy's parents, Andrew and Hedwig Kolodziej, passed away before ever knowing what happened to their daughter. Her uncle Charlie Szydlowski spoke to NEWS10 on their behalf.
"I got a call from my sister, and I think it was November 2nd of that year, and she says, 'Charlie, they called me from the school and Kathy didn't come home last night.' And I said 'she probably is some place with friends' or whatever, I said 'don't worry about it.' She says, 'she's probably dead along the side of the road someplace,' and I said 'Hattie, we're in New York, a population of 13 million people, what are the chances that something like that happening to us?' But, she was right" Szydlowski said.
Kolodziej was last seen leaving the Vault Tavern, a place many in the student population would come to drink and dance. Investigators say she told her roommate she had plans to meet someone and she would be back at the dorm later. She never made it back.
Over the years, investigators looked into a number of suspects including serial killers Ted Bundy and Lewis Lent because they may have been in the area at the time.
Bundy was executed in 1989. Authorities say they no longer believe he is responsible.
Lent, however is currently an inmate at Old Colony Correctional Center in Massachusetts. He was charged in the murders of 12-year-olds Sara Ann wood and Jimmy Bernardo.
NEWS10's Christine O'Donnell has been corresponding with him in January about the unsolved murder case. In one letter he talks about where he was the time when Kathy died:
"I know I lived in central Florida for the majority of the 1970s, I don't remember ever hearing of Kathy Kolodziej either in 1974, while living in Florida or anytime."
He continues "but, I could be wrong, in 1973 I was working at Morse Chain Company now defunct, in Ithaca, New York. I know that because I took out a loan and bought a 1973 MGB convertible."
"Either way," he writes, "I had nothing to do with Kathy."
In a diner, just down the road from the place Kathy was last seen, the original investigators, including Sheriff Desmond discuss the 38-year-old case, a murder they have not been able to get out of their minds.
Bill Goblet is a retired Investigator from the New York State Police.
"One thing I remember about this the most was Mrs. Kolodziej; when she came to identify her daughter's body, she was obviously a heartbroken woman and I've never been able to get that out of my mind. And I always wished before she had died we were able to give her the satisfaction of saying we caught the guy, but unfortunately, that didn't happen," Goblet said.
Pat Donnelly, also retired from the New York State Police, points to his head saying "oh yeah, It's always been there and it always will be. It's unfinished business."
Back at the place Kathy's body was found Desmond looks down at the rock wall.
"Someone needs to pay for what happened here. And, I hope I'm around to see them when they have to pay for it," Desmond said.
New York State Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $2,500 for information that directly leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the homicide of Katherine Kolodziej.
If you have any information regarding this crime please contact Inv. Thomas Cioffi of the New York State Police at (518) 234-3131 or leave an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers by using the "leave a tip" tab on this Facebook profile or by calling the Crime Stoppers Hot Line at 1-866-313-TIPS (8477).
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