Three decades after a Cornell alumnus was murdered in the Ithaca Red Cross shelter where he worked, police have reopened the cold case and are narrowing in on a possible suspect.
Ithaca Police found David W. Malcom ’84 dead on West Court Street on Feb. 12, 1987, in what was then the Ithaca Emergency Community Shelter. Police declared the case a homicide and said Malcom, 26, died of multiple wounds the day before he was found, though they have not revealed whether a weapon was used.
In a recent interview, Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello said he reopened the cold case in 2015 and believes a man police suspected of the murder 30 years ago — and who now lives in the Rochester area — is still a viable suspect.
“What really concerns me is that the individual who did this crime hasn’t been consumed by guilt over the years,” Monticello told The Sun. “You’d think a normal person isn’t going to kill somebody the way this crime took place … but you’d think somebody who has a conscience would, over the years, [have] some guilt and would want to get that guilt off their chest.”
“It makes me think that I’m dealing with a cold person,” Monticello added. “A very cold, no conscience, could care less [person].”
Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 recently issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 11 — the 30th anniversary of the murder — David Malcom Day. The proclamation said Malcom “always embraced life with a huge heart, a warm smile and absolute kindness towards all.”
The case went cold in 1988 and police reopened it sporadically in the 1990s, mid-2000s and around 2010, Monticello said. About a year and a half ago, Monticello called some colleagues at New York State Police and decided to “start from scratch.”
“This case was always on my mind,” Monticello said. “I was a young street cop back then [in 1987] … what I knew about the case [in 2015] is that it could be solvable.”
Tracking down more than 20 friends, associates and possible witnesses proved difficult, Monticello said, but police were aided by the fact that many of Malcom’s acquaintances were young at the time of his murder. Police have followed up on 200 leads since fall 2015, the deputy chief added.
Malcom was working the night shift at the Red Cross shelter, which provided homeless people with a place to stay, when he was killed, according to a front-page article published in The Sun in the week after the murder. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences graduate had also been volunteering for three years at the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service of Tompkins County.
About 200 mourners attended a memorial service at Sage Chapel on Feb. 15, 1987, where a relative said Malcom “was a rare human being; intelligent, sensitive and caring. He had great sympathy for everyone in distress.”
Friends described Malcom as an avid piano player who also loved being outdoors, The Sun reported in 1987. A co-worker at the suicide prevention center described him as “spontaneous and playful” and a friend said Malcom had “a keen sense of the ironic and the absurd.”
Monticello said he and other investigators reopened the case with an open mind — not ruling anything out or focusing on just one suspect — but he now believes the original suspect who lives in the Rochester area is responsible for the Cornell graduate’s death, although he cautioned that new evidence could always lead investigators in a different direction.
“That’s what really angers me, is that this individual has not come clean,” Monticello said. “Hopefully someday this will all come out in court.”
Police created a composite sketch of a suspect in 1987, which Monticello shared with The Sun. He said he believes the sketch was an accurate depiction of the suspect at the time of the murder, but warned that it was hard to know how the man has aged.
Ithaca Police told The Sun in the fall of 2016 that they hoped to bring a suspect before a grand jury by January, but Monticello said last month that he was not sure when IPD would have a strong enough case against the suspect to indict him.
Advances in science have aided the case, Monticello said, and although he declined to discuss specific evidence, he said he is currently waiting on forensic results from a State Police lab.
“This has impacted a lot of people,” Monticello said of the murder, noting that he has been in contact with Malcom’s family throughout the investigation. “He was a human services worker trying to help people and that’s one of many reasons why I’d like to see justice in this case.”
As Monticello leaned back in the chair in his office at the Ithaca Police Department on Clinton Street, two big tubs labeled “David Malcom Homicide” sat on a shelf across the room.
“It used to be one tub,” Monticello said. “It’s two tubs now.”
Monticello asked that anyone with information about the murder contact IPD at 607-272-9973.