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After a beloved scientist was found dead in Norwich, Connecticut in 2004, his killers were able to evade justice for more than four years. How?
On the evening of May 14, Norwich police received a call that a dead body had been found at a local house. Upon their arrival, they found the victim, a man in his 50s, lying in a pool of his own blood. It was clear he had been viciously beaten, and there were even shoe patterns on his clothing, indicating someone may have stomped on him.
“It was a horrific scene,” Joe Dolan, a retired detective with the Norwich PD, told Oxygen’s “An Unexpected Killer," airing Fridays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
The victim’s shoes and wallet were missing, and there was blood on multiple parts of the property, suggesting the struggle had actually began in the backyard. Police turned to the woman who’d made the 911 call, and she explained she’d gone to the house after seeing a sign indicating it was for rent. When she called the number, a woman told her that her husband was the owner and he was currently at the property doing some renovation and she should go and talk to him about renting.
She did just that, only to find the man’s body in the driveway.
It was the info police needed: The owner of the property was 56-year-old Eugene Mallove, a respected scientist who’d studied at both Harvard and MIT. He held a PhD in environmental engineering and was passionate about stopping global warming. The house in Norwich, where his body was found, had been the same home Eugene had grown up in. He’d since taken it over and rented it out while he and his family lived in New Hampshire.
Though police now knew who the victim was, they still had major questions: Why would anyone want Eugene Mallove, a well-liked academic, dead, and why would they do it in such a brutal way?
Investigators spoke to Eugene’s wife, Joanne, who told them that the day Eugene was killed, he’d driven his minivan to Norwich to clean up the property. However, Eugene’s van wasn’t in the driveway when police got there. They also spoke to Eugene’s neighbors, one of whom reported seeing him mowing the lawn that morning but recalled the van was gone at around 8:30 that night.
Authorities soon received a call from a local casino and learned Eugene’s van was in the employee parking lot and likely had been there for hours. They had the van towed for processing but found no fingerprints in the vehicle, suggesting whoever had driven the car had likely been wearing gloves.
A search of the casino’s security footage also proved fruitless; it had been too foggy for a clear image of the van’s driver to be captured.
Back at square one, police went to speak with Eugene’s wife again in the hopes of finding out if he had any enemies. Joanne said Eugene had evicted a couple named Patricia and Roy Anderson from the Norwich property around two weeks before he was killed. The pair had stopped paying rent and it took Eugene six months to evict them.
Neighbors were able to lead police to the Andersons' son, Chad Schaffer, who lived with his girlfriend, Candace Foster. Shaffer claimed his parents hadn’t seen Eugene since they were evicted and that there was no bad blood between them. He also gave police their new address, and when detectives went to talk to the couple, they repeated what Shaffer had said. They also had solid alibis for the night of the murder.
Investigators next turned to the autopsy report, which showed Eugene had sustained 32 lacerations to his face and body and had had his trachea crushed. Around the same time, police had also begun receiving tips someone had been hired to kill Eugene, possibly due to the work he was doing on sustainable energy.
“It occurred to me that he was doing work that might have threatened someone enough that they would have murdered him,” his friend Rick Broussard recalled.
Cold fusion was a controversial school of thought at the time, but was it controversial enough to get an innocent man killed? According to detectives who worked on the case, the idea of a hitman was too far-fetched, and so they focused their investigation in other directions.
Multiple suspects appeared over the investigation, but all were eventually cleared. Authorities were at a standstill.
“I had to accept it, but it was a terrible thing,” Eugene’s cousin, Jana Goldstein Scher, told producers. “I would cry on the way to work. I think, when you go through a tragedy, your world becomes very small.”
The case went cold until four years later, when a new task force was created and they were able to get a $50,000 reward up for information leading to an arrest in Eugene’s case. Within weeks, police finally got the tip they needed. A woman claiming to be friends with Chad Schaffer and his girlfriend, Foster, told police Foster confided she’d seen Schaffer come home with bloody clothes around the time Eugene was killed. Schaffer would also appear nervous whenever news reports about the murder were shown on TV, she said.
Police spoke to the woman’s boyfriend next, and he claimed Chad had confessed to him that he’d killed Eugene.
Foster, who’d since parted ways with Shaffer, was called in for questioning. She told authorities she was afraid of her ex, who she shared children with, and so they offered her participation in the witness protection program in exchange for her story. She agreed and was able to positively identify a set of keys found at the crime scene as the same keys that had been at their house for years.
Still, police suspected that there was more Foster was hiding from them — and they were right: Eventually, she admitted Schaffer had not acted alone when he killed Eugene. A man named Mozzelle Brown, Schaffer's cousin, had been with him, she claimed.
Soon, the full story spilled out: After the eviction, Patricia had called her son repeatedly to tell him the landlord was now throwing their stuff in the trash. Schaffer told Brown about what was happening and they went to confront Eugene at the house. The confrontation soon turned physical and Schaffer and Brown brutally beat Eugene and then left him for dead.
Foster admitted she’d later returned to the rental property with the two men to help cover up what they had done. When they arrived, Eugene was lying on the ground but he was still breathing. The men decided they needed to kill him. They beat Eugene further, but it wasn’t until Brown stood on his throat that he died. Then, after Eugene was dead, they tried to make the scene look like a robbery, and Foster drove his car to the casino parking lot and abandoned it there.
All three were tried for the crime. Brown, whom police believed was the violent ringleader of the trio, was sentenced to over 50 years in prison, while Schaffer got 25 years and would be eligible for parole after serving 17 years. Foster, who faced lesser charges as she'd worked with the authorities, was sentenced to a few years in jail to be followed by probation.
After the verdict, Eugene’s loved ones were left to grapple with the loss of a brilliant man, one whose family and friends cared for him deeply.
“I think Eugene did make a big difference in the world. I think he could have made a bigger difference, had he been around longer,” Broussard said.
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