Cold case not forgotten

This playing card provides information on the unsolved murder of Sandra Ramos Cuadrado in 2005 in Naugatuck. It’s one of a deck of cards distributed within the state's prison population to help solve cold cases. –CONTRIBUTED
This playing card provides information on the unsolved murder of Sandra Ramos Cuadrado in 2005 in Naugatuck. It’s one of a deck of cards distributed within the state’s prison population to help solve cold cases. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Ten years have passed since someone walked into Sandra Ramos Cuadrado’s apartment and stabbed her to death. Her killer has not been brought to justice.

“The people of Naugatuck should be outraged that someone came into this woman’s home and did this,” said Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin, who heads the Cold Case Unit in Rocky Hill that is now investigating the case. “We’re asking people who may know anything to help us. If it takes us 25 years, help us.”

The Cold Case Unit is working with the Naugatuck Police Department’s detective bureau and the state crime lab to solve the murder of the 50-year-old mother of three who was found dead inside her apartment at 70 Olive St. on Feb. 18, 2005.

The body of Ramos Cuadrado, who worked as a nurse staffing coordinator, was found next to her husky dog, “Niki.” The dog suffered a non-fatal knife wound to the rib cage during the attack. Ramos Cuadrado’s sister, Denise, found Ramos Cuadrado’s body the morning after the attack when she didn’t show up for work at Primary Care Inc., and Cinda Care Inc., both in Newtown.

Ramos Cuadrado had been stabbed multiple times. The gruesome crime was Naugatuck’s first murder in 13 years. The fact that it remains unsolved grates every day on investigators.

Three Naugatuck detectives meet at least once a week to discuss the case with the Cold Case Unit, which consists of investigators from a variety of law enforcement agencies who focus on crimes unsolved for long periods, usually more than five years.

The Ramos Cuadrado case is one of 40 from around the state that the Cold Case Unit is investigating.

Maureen Platt, the Waterbury State’s Attorney, recommended that the Cold Case Unit review the Naugatuck murder. Det. Sgt. Bart Deeley and detectives Jay Pugliese and Paul Markette are the Naugatuck officers working with the unit. Lt. Gregory Dean, head of the detective bureau at the Naugatuck Police Department, is overseeing Naugatuck’s portion of the investigation.

Each investigator carries a photograph of Ramos Cuadrado in life — Griffin insists they have such a photo from each case.

At the time of her murder, friends and family members described Ramos Cuadrado as a sweet woman always willing to help others. A contemporary photo shows a bespectacled woman with cropped, curly graying hair. So it’s no coincidence that her picture is the Queen of Hearts in Connecticut’s third edition of the cold case playing card deck.

The deck is distributed to inmates throughout the state correctional system. These are the only cards inmates are allowed to use. To date, 11 cold cases have been solved thanks to tips derived from cards, giving investigators hope that the Ramos Cuadrado case also will be cleared.

Her card briefly describes the circumstances surrounding her death, and asks people to call the cold case tip line if they believe they have any information about her murder.

Her living room is being re-examined top to bottom and tested, and in some cases retested, through touch DNA analyzing, in which very small pieces of evidence, such as skin cells, can be analyzed.

In the past 10 years, there has been “an explosion of DNA technology” and major advances in the ability to identify and match fingerprints, Griffin said. Such advances may be helpful in the Ramos Cuadrado investigation. The Cold Case Unit is using the latest technology to test evidence found at the crime scene.

For fear of jeopardizing the case, investigators would not speak in detail about what kind of evidence they have amassed or whether they have a suspect.

The unit takes a systematic approach to each case, running down a checklist of materials, including copies of all statements and interviews, copies of photo arrays and all 911 calls.

The investigators also keep a hard copy investigative case book that is now about 3 inches thick. It includes police reports, investigative reports, statements, suspects and other case material.

The unit painstakingly inventories all physical and forensic evidence. Each investigator in the unit is assigned one portion of the work.

“The only way to keep this case on track is to have specific tasks,” Griffin said.

Deeley, the Naugatuck detective sergeant, faces each work day with the case book on his desk — a mute reminder of his unending responsibility.

Deeley said he went into police work because he wanted to help people. Helping to solve this case will do that, he said.

“Whatever we do on this case, I’m sure her sons are never going to have closure,” he said. “At least I will know that what we are doing is dotting every ‘I,’ crossing every ‘T’, and turning over every rock.”

Deeley doesn’t know when the case will be solved, but he knows investigators will keep working until it is.

“This isn’t going to be solved just by DNA alone,” he said.

For example, the team is re-interviewing everyone connected to Ramos Cuadrado in hopes that additional clues might emerge.

“This case is going to be solved through good, old-fashioned police work,” Deeley said.