Sullivan County Democrat
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Murder Solved
18 Years Later

By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO — May 7, 2004 – It was a story straight out of television.
Like a scene in the popular CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigations, a cigarette in a beer bottle solved an 18-year-old Bloomingburg murder case.
John Calvin Roe was found murdered in his home on High Note Road in Bloomingburg on November 3, 1986. The 45-year-old had been beaten about the head and stabbed in the chest.
As of Wednesday, Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen was awaiting the extradition of the man charged with killing Roe 18 years ago.
According to Lungen, the New York State Police have a policy to never close a homicide investigation until the crime is solved.
Each year since 1986, the evidence from the crime scene at Roe’s home has been subjected to studies by developing technology.
When DNA matching became a means of identification, the crime scene was combed for anything that might supply a human’s DNA.
They came up with the cigarette in the bottom of a beer bottle found in Roe’s home, which, Lungen said, was not actually involved in the crime itself but was saved with other evidence at the scene.
In January of this year, the DNA on that cigarette came up with a match on the national DNA database – Rommal Bennett, 41, a former Middletown resident, had been arrested and incarcerated in the State of Minnesota where his information was entered into the database.
By last month, Bennett had been traced to San Francisco, with the help of the San Francisco Police Department.
New York State Police were sent to California to surveil Bennett, and finally to interview him on April 17 when, according to a police report, he admitted he had participated in the murder of John Roe and stole Roe’s vehicle.
That vehicle, a 1985 Mercury Marquis was missing from Roe’s residence when his body was discovered. Three days later, on Nov. 6, 1986, it was discovered, abandoned in the parking lot at Orange County Community College.
Although he could not speculate a motive in Roe’s killing, Lungen said that Bennett had been at least a “casual acquaintance” of the former owner of the Bloomingburg Diner.
Lungen said Bennett has waived extradition, a process that could have taken up to three months.
He is expected to be returned to Sullivan County to face court proceedings later this month.
That’s good news for Lungen, who will prosecute Bennett for murder in the second degree, a felony.
“I’m getting to be good at old cases,” Lungen noted. “Last month I prosecuted a 25-year-old case in the [Dianne]O’Dell case, now we have an 18-year-old case.
“It’s a case that needed to be worked on, needed to be solved, and I’ll do the best I can,” Lungen said.

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