One year after DNA exonerated a man who spent nearly 26 years in prison for the rape and murder of a Miramar woman, investigators said they have new evidence and identified two men they said are "persons of interest" in the unsolved case.
Anthony Caravella, 42, was freed from prison on Sept.10, 2009 after forensic tests proved he was wrongfully convicted of the 1983 slaying of Ada Jankowski. Her body was found on the grounds of Miramar Elementary School. She had been stabbed 29 times, strangled, hit with a chair and sexually assaulted.
After the forensic evidence cleared Caravella, Miramar detectives began re-examining the case, along with the Broward State Attorney's Office, city police spokeswoman Tania Rues said.
"At this time, based on new evidence, Anthony Martinez and Joseph Martinez are persons of interest in the murder of Ada Jankowski," Rues said this week. "We have reached out to the Martinez brothers and they are not cooperating."
Neither of those names are new to the case and Anthony Martinez, 44, was initially identified as the prime suspect. He was 17 at the time and is the last known person seen with Jankowski when they left a neighborhood bar together around 3 a.m. on November 5, 1983, just hours before her body was found, according to court records.
Martinez, who now lives near Oneonta in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, could not be reached for comment despite messages left with his mother, Isabel Martinez, and on voicemail at the residence they share.
"We've been through all this before," said Isabel Martinez in a brief phone conversation Thursday. She declined to comment further and said Anthony Martinez might be available later in the day. Subsequent phone calls went unanswered and voicemail messages seeking comment were not returned.
Anthony Martinez and his elder brother, Joseph, now 47 and living in New York City, were in the Miramar Lounge at the same time as Jankowski in the last several hours of her life, according to statements both men and other witnesses gave to police at the time. Records show the brothers lived six houses away from Jankowski.
While detectives at the time said they considered Anthony Martinez a suspect, Joseph Martinez, who was 20, was also interviewed as a witness and both men gave sworn statements to police in the early stages of the investigation.
In a phone interview Friday, Joseph Martinez said a Miramar police detective and an investigator from the Broward State Attorney's Office showed up at the apartment building on Madison Avenue in Manhattan where he works as a doorman but he "didn't like the tone of their questions and I had to escort them off the premises." He said that was about two or 2 1/2 months ago and they also tried to speak to his brother.
Joseph Martinez said the investigators told him they had DNA that matched or partially matched Anthony Martinez. He said he told them he hopes they reach a conclusion on the case because it would be better for everyone, including his family, who he said has been very upset by the questioning and allegations.
"I hold my breath every day that I don't get the call that he's the one that did it," Joseph Martinez said.
He said his younger brother has told his family that he did not kill Jankowski and that he has been depressed and ill lately. "He's put up a brick wall and he's not talking to any of us about it," he said.
Broward prosecutor Carolyn McCann and Rues, of Miramar police, released limited information about the reopened investigation in response to requests from the Sun Sentinel. Both said they could not reveal what the new evidence is because the case is "an open and very active" criminal investigation being conducted by detectives Marc Ganow and Joseph Tomlin. McCann also said Friday that she could not comment on Martinez's characterization of the evidence or give any other details.
"Our office has been actively assisting the Miramar Police Department in their continuing investigation into her [Jankowski's] murder. Our office cannot comment on the facts of the case or the new evidence that has made Anthony Martinez and Joe Martinez persons of interest," McCann wrote in an emailed response to requests for comment. "The facts will speak for themselves."
A "person of interest" is a term used by law enforcement to describe someone who is under criminal investigation but who has not been formally accused of a crime or arrested.
Sworn statements and depositions given by the Martinez brothers, as well as the barmaid and other customers at the Miramar Lounge in the hours before the murder, raised concerns about why detectives dropped Anthony Martinez as their suspect and began focusing on Caravella.
Former Miramar police detective Bill Guess, who was initially the lead investigator on the murder, told the newspaper in 2001 that he had always doubted that Caravella was the killer.
In a phone interview Thursday, Guess, now a Polk County Sheriff's deputy, said he was never satisified that Anthony Martinez was adequately investigated in 1983. He said Martinez and his family hired an attorney and stopped cooperating when police continued to question Martinez's account of the night and early morning hours.