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Jamestown Police seek new leads in Juul homicide case

Police are pictured in January 1993 on Marion Street in the city of Jamestown after 32-year-old Melinda Juul was found shot to death. To this day no one has been charged in the homicide, despite thousands of man hours that have gone into the case. Submitted photo

Editor’s note: the following is part of an ongoing series looking into cold cases within Chautauqua County. Anyone with information regarding the cases is asked to contact the police agency leading the investigation.

JAMESTOWN — Written in red marker on a whiteboard in the office of Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department is the name Melinda Juul along with an address, a date and the word “homicide.”

The information, located in the top left corner of the large board that takes up much of the wall, seems more like the first piece in a puzzle than part of a tally of open and ongoing investigations in the city of Jamestown.

Nonetheless, police remain hopeful to this day that things will fall into place to solve the 28-year-old homicide case and bring closure to a local family.

“Every person that looks at this case file goes, ‘Why? This doesn’t make any sense,'” Samuelson said.

Juul was killed in the early morning hours of Jan. 20, 1993, while on break from her job at The Resource Center’s Immediate Care Facility. Coworkers of the 32-year-old mother of three called police around 4:30 a.m. after she failed to return from a lunch break during her 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. shift.

Not long after, her body was discovered on Marion Street, about 10 yards west of the Foote Avenue intersection, and a quarter-mile from her job.

Those details — her name, the date of her murder and where she was found — top the list of open cases on Samuelson’s whiteboard to this day. The homicide also remains one of the more prominent cold cases in Chautauqua County’s recent history.

“We don’t see any reason why she would have been a target,” Samuelson said. “She was a victim (who) pretty much kept to herself, raised her family. We don’t believe this was a robbery based on the information I have been told.”

Police continue to look at every possibility, including that Juul’s killer or killers may have been targeting someone else that morning.

“Because of the lack of a motive in this case, there is a reason for us to believe that this was a possible case of mistaken identity,” Samuelson said. “We have spoken to investigators who worked on the case at that time. We have actually sat down and discussed this with them over the last several years to assist us getting to where they were. We are also in the process on following up on new information.”

The mistaken identity theory is somewhat bolstered by a letter the department received years after the homicide. That anonymous letter lists a suspect and detailed motive for the murder that indicates someone else indeed was being targeted.

Police are looking for the author to “learn a little bit more,” Samuelson said in acknowledging the letter’s existence for the first time publicly and that it continues to be investigated. “We’d like to talk to the person who sent us this letter.”

LIKELY NOT A

RANDOM ACT

Despite many unknowns in the case, Juul’s precise movements leading up to her murder are well-documented. She was shot between 3:37 a.m. when she left the Quality Markets along Foote Avenue and 4:29 a.m. when her body was discovered.

Juul left Immediate Care Facility where she worked as a community living specialist for about six years around 3:10 a.m., walking north to the store and where she was observed by two night workers just after 3:15 a.m.

At 3:26 a.m., police obtained video of Juul making a withdrawal from an ATM in the Southside Plaza. She was then spotted by another night worker entering Quality Markets around 3:30 a.m.

The last reported sighting of Juul was at 3:37 a.m., when store video captured her at the cash register purchasing a magazine.

Juul was found dead 42 minutes later.

“Because of the lack of motive and because this was possibly the case of mistaken identity, we don’t think this was a random act because of the way it was done,” Samuelson said. “We don’t believe anyone was just driving through the area and shot her.”

It’s not known if the assailant was on foot or in a vehicle at the time of the shooting; however, in early media reports police noted a black or dark-colored vehicle spotted in the area of the Southside Plaza being driven by a white male.

In the nearly 30-year investigation, several detectives have looked into the case. That includes Art Osterdahl, who with another investigator, “put a pair of fresh eyes on it” around 1999.

Osterdahl said homicide investigations typically include looking at those close to the victim, including a spouse and co-workers, and going over evidence collected in the case.

“We went over the evidence but weren’t able to discover anything that hadn’t been covered before,” said Osterdahl, who retired in 2009. “We’ve always wanted to see a resolution to that case.”

LOOKING FOR

CLOSURE

Following his wife’s death, Greg Juul discussed the difficulties in raising the pair’s three children. In an interview with The Post-Journal, he said he was “just as baffled, if not more baffled, than anybody else” a year after the incident.

“I’m trying to deal with what happened last year the best way I can,” he said in January 1994. “They (the children) have a lot of people that care for them. They always have, even before their mom was killed.”

Greg Juul later remarried and eventually moved to Frewsburg. He passed away in October 2011 at the age of 54 due to cancer, and without ever knowing who killed Melinda.

“It was hard on him, first of all losing a spouse in the manner that it happened,” said his widow, Connie Juul. “It was hard with the kids because no one knew why somebody would do that. They loved their mom. … They seem to deal with it the best they could.”

Connie Juul, a teaching aide at Falconer Central School, said the family had hoped for some sort of resolution when Greg became sick. “They wished that something could have been found before Greg passed away,” she said. “They wished he could have seen an answer to why and who and stuff.”

SEARCHING FOR

NEW LEADS

As with any cold case, the Jamestown Police Department is looking for new information regarding Juul’s murder. Samuelson is confident the person responsible has likely discussed the incident with other people.

“I believe that whoever did this has discussed this with somebody,” he said. “We’re looking for any information from someone who may have bragged about this shooting. We’ve looked at every angle.”

He added: “I think somebody was meant to be killed there and I don’t think it was meant to be Melinda Juul.”

Anyone with information regarding the Juul case is asked to call the department at 483-7537 or leave an anonymous tip at 483-TIPS or the Tips 411 App. All calls and tips are kept confidential.

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