It's as if somebody is whispering in his ear, "you're getting warmer."
Of all four mysterious death files on his desk, the murders of Kisha Sullivan and Bill Fickel are the ones Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster is least likely to call cold cases.
While arrests may not be imminent, Brewster has a "person of interest" in each case.
Now, it's just a matter of putting the pieces in place that will lead to indictments.
As Brewster is fond of saying, "Mere suspicion isn’t enough and if that’s all you’ve got, you really don’t have anything."
Kisha Sullivan's body was found at least two weeks after she was bludgeoned to death in a wooded area of Gulf Road, Le Roy.
Nobody had reported the deaf young mother missing, even though she had a boyfriend, whom she wasn't living with at the time.
After extensive interviews in the Rochester area, where the 27-year-old lived, Brewster said investigators concluded that everybody who knew her liked her and the only person she ever had cross words with was her boyfriend.
Early on, he was a logical suspect.
"He came up with an alibi but we were never really satisfied that he wasn’t involved," Brewster said. "But through our investigation, we concluded there was really a strong possibility that he was telling us the the truth and he wasn’t involved."
Sullivan's body was found Oct. 27, 2002. Her last known location while she was alive was at an ATM machine at a convenience store in Rochester on Oct. 5.
Her body decomposition, Brewster said, was consistent with somebody who had been dead in those weather conditions for that period of time.
The wooded area where she was found is owned by the Dolomite Group. It was a Dolomite supervisor, who was giving a tour of a new logging operation on the property to a friend, who found Sullivan's body.
It was clear from the scene, Brewster said, that Sullivan tried to flee from her attacker, but that she was killed in that wooded area.
She wasn't sexually assaulted.
Nobody saw her get in a car, nor was she seen with another person prior to her disappearance.
Investigators were unable to find anybody in Le Roy or Bergen with any connection to the St. Mary's High School graduate.
As for DNA evidence, Brewster said he recently learned from the criminal lab that, with recent advances in the DNA technology, he should resubmit DNA samples. In the first go around, no DNA that might be tied to a suspect could be found. With the new technology, Brewster suggested, maybe something might turn up.
The only thing Brewster revealed about the person he thinks killed Sullivan is that it is somebody she knew prior to her death.
"The one thing I can tell you, I’m fairly confident that we know who is responsible for her death," Brewster said, "but I guess you can read between the lines that I don’t have enough to make a charge yet."
On Brewster's book shelf is a very thick, full binder. On its spine: Fickel Homicide. You can't miss it when you walk into Brewster's office. It draws your eye faster than the stunning photograph of a lone tree in the midst of an expansive landscape on one wall, or the beautifully carved birdhouse atop his credenza.
Brewster has amassed more than 500 leads in the Fickel case, and more than 300 of them are filed in the Fickel Homicide binder.
But the most important lead of all may have come in mid-June when Steven Rebert, a former Oakfield resident, was arrested as a suspect in a double murder in Pennsylvania.
State Police in that case reported finding evidence on his computer that indicated he had more than a passing interest in the death of Fickel and the unsolved murder of Kevin Smith in Orleans County.
All four people were shot to death.
Bill Fickel was killed outside his home in November, 2005, less than mile from where Rebert lived at the time. The two men knew each other.
In the Fickel murder, there was DNA found at the scene. It could be the DNA of the killer or the DNA of an associate, but Brewster has spent years looking for a match, because a match could crack the case.
Of all the mysterious deaths in Genesee County in the past 30 or 40 years, the murder of Bill Fickel has gotten the most attention. Fickel was well known and well liked, and he was gunned down in front of his own home with his wife inside -- for no apparent reason.
Since the arrest of Rebert, Brerwster said he's been working the case daily. There have been steps forward, and steps backward.
"You have to be able to roll with the punches," Brewster said. "Some days are good, and some days are bad."
But, he said, "I'm optimistic on that case, and that's probably all I'm going to tell you."
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