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State Police ask help in cold case murder of Ronkonkoma woman

Katherine Kolodziej, of Ronkonkoma, in a photo taken

Katherine Kolodziej, of Ronkonkoma, in a photo taken when she was 17. Credit: Newsday

She went missing after leaving a bar not far from the SUNY Cobleskill campus early on the morning of Nov. 2, 1974.

Weeks later, on Nov. 28, 1974, the body of Katherine Kolodziej, 17, a freshman from Ronkonkoma, was found five miles away — in a field 150 feet off McDonald Road in the Town of Richmondville. State Police said she’d been stabbed “multiple times.”

Forty-three years later, investigators are still trying to figure out who killed the teenager from Long Island.

On Tuesday afternoon, State Police spokesman Trooper Mark Cepiel said authorities will hold a news conference at the site of a billboard erected just west of the college campus to remind the public that although the case remains cold, it has not been forgotten.

That billboard has a photo of Katherine Kolodziej and information about her disappearance.

“Sometimes, you never know who might know something,” Cepiel said. “The littlest thing sometimes can [be key].”

The Kolodziej case is being highlighted once again as part of a state police initiative called “Cold Case Tuesday.”

Every month, one of the State Police regions around New York highlights a cold case and this month it is Troop G in Latham.

Kolodziej was last seen leaving the Vault Tavern on Main Street in Cobleskill at about 1:30 a.m. walking toward campus, where she lived, about a mile away.

But, police said, Kolodziej never returned to her dorm room and her roommate reported her missing that morning.

Police looked at numerous suspects after Kolodziej’s body was found, carefully arranged atop a stone wall, in the field in nearby Richmondville. One suspect was serial killer John William Hopkins, who authorities said raped and killed Joanne Pecheone, 19, in East Utica in 1972. Hopkins, who admitted to killing three girls after his arrest for stabbing a 15-year-old girl in upstate Northville in 1979, died in 2000 — though he remains a person of interest, Cepiel said.

Previously, State Police said investigators also looked at potential links to other serial killers, including Ted Bundy — that, The Albany Times-Union reported in 2011, after a witness reported seeing a woman matching the description of Kolodziej getting into a yellow Volkswagen Beetle after leaving the Vault.

On Tuesday, Cepiel said all leads remain in play.

“Nothing has been ruled out yet,” he said, “and the case hasn’t been solved. We’re still getting leads. We’re hoping for more.”

He said investigators are still “trying to correlate time frames” in the case in hopes of homing in on one suspect.

Katherine Kolodziej’s parents died years ago, police said. She has no immediate family living and, Cepiel said, only extended family — cousins, mostly — remain, though he could not say Tuesday whether investigators know if any of her family members remain on Long Island. Nevertheless, Cepiel said, investigators are hopeful bringing the case back into the spotlight will spark new leads — or refocus old ones.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call investigators at 518-783-3211. All calls will remain confidential.

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