One who lived sees chance for closure
Jane Boroski hopes a man who killed himself on New Year’s Eve was the one who attacked her 18 years ago.
By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS and BEN MONTGOMERY
Published September 16, 2006
Eighteen years have passed since Jane Boroski sped through the New Hampshire night, pregnant, covered in blood and stab wounds, alive.
Boroski didn’t know it then, but she may have been a serial killer’s only survivor.
Now speaking publicly for the first time in years, she thinks she knows who attacked her that night: Michael Nicholaou, a traumatized Vietnam veteran who later killed his wife and stepdaughter in Tampa.
“I am totally convinced,” she said.
Before the attack on Boroski outside a market in August 1988, New England police were investigating the gruesome slayings of at least six young women, all dumped disheveled along the wooded borderlands of Vermont and New Hampshire. The cases became known as the Connecticut River Valley killings.
Over the years, people approached Boroski with theories and suspects. She discounted them all until July, when she met St. Petersburg private investigator Lynn-Marie Carty and reviewed circumstantial evidence Carty collected during her own nine-month investigation into the killings.
Boroski looked at photographs of Nicholaou. In one, she saw something familiar. She says she is “99 percent sure” he was the attacker.
Authorities in New Hampshire are testing evidence to link Nicholaou to the Connecticut River Valley murders. They’ve found nothing so far and don’t expect answers for three to four months.
Nicholaou (pronounced NICK-allow) shot to death his most recent wife, Aileen, and stepdaughter in West Tampa on New Year’s Eve before he shot himself in the mouth. Aileen Nicholaou may not have been the first lover in his life to meet such an end. In 1988, the mother of two of Nicholaou’s children, who had talked of leaving him, vanished from Holyoke, Mass., four months after Boroski was attacked. The woman, Michelle Ashley, was never found.
Carty was hired five years ago to find Ashley, whose family thinks Nicholaou killed her.
After Carty learned of the Tampa murders, she renewed her investigation of Ashley’s disappearance. In researching 1988 New England murders, she learned of the Connecticut River Valley killings, documented in a book called The Shadow of Death by Philip E. Ginsburg.
Carty found coincidences. Several victims were nurses. She remembered hearing that Nicholaou’s first wife was a nurse and that his mother worked at a hospital. The killer knew the area. Ashley’s family lived in the heart of the Connecticut River Valley. Nicholaou had visited a hospital where one of the victims worked within a few months of her death.
The private detective, who specializes in family reunions, assembled a time line by February and persuaded New Hampshire authorities to look at Nicholaou.
The St. Petersburg Times reported in June that New Hampshire State Police detective Steve Rowland considered Nicholaou a “strong suspect” and would test his DNA and fingerprints against evidence in the murders. Rowland has since referred calls to his supervisors.
Lt. Mark Mudgett of the State Police major crimes unit called Nicholaou a “person of interest,” just one of many leads.
After the Times report circulated through the bucolic Connecticut River Valley, Nicholaou’s ex-girlfriends contacted Carty with more tips.
Aileen Nicholaou’s Tampa relatives gave Carty access to Nicholaou’s belongings.
She found needles and lidocaine, a common anesthetic. She found computers containing sadomasochistic pornography.
Nicholaou’s psychiatric records from a stay at a Miami veterans hospital say he felt “guilt over being involved in killing civilians during his Vietnam combat duty” and could become “violent when threatened.”
Nicholaou was tried along with seven other soldiers for strafing civilians. The charges were dropped.
Medical records show Nicholaou reported chronic nightmares and daytime intrusive images about his combat experiences.
“He says that he wakes up in the middle of the night and he sees the face of some of these people which he would just kill randomly from the helicopter level,” Dr. Alberto Penalver wrote in the 1996 report. “He sees their face and the expression of helplessness that they had.”
Carty flew to meet Boroski this summer, bringing angel trinkets for her and her daughter. Boroski had met few people connected to the murders, and few had shown her the compassion Carty had, she said.Carty also contacted the sister of Barbara Agnew, a nurse murdered in Vermont in 1987.Anna Agnew, a Maryland social worker, felt as if her sister was killed all over again when the Nicholaou story broke. Barbara Agnew’s death shattered her family, she said.
Agnew keeps notebooks of news clippings and new facts she learns about the investigation.
“I actually have been able to get a little more action-oriented, and I find that it’s a little less sad,” she said.
Agnew, too, grew convinced of a link between Nicholaou and the New England killings.
“I’m confident he’s responsible for at least some of these,” she said.
She called Vermont authorities and is frustrated by the apparent low priority of her sister’s case. “To me, it’s not like a cold case,” Agnew said. “It’s a current case with current events, and it needs time and attention.”
Jeffery A. Strelzin, chief of homicide for the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, said it takes time to complete forensic testing on cold cases. The New Hampshire State Police have no cold case squad. Detectives work on them as time allows.
The state crime lab has tested some of the evidence but has found nothing to rule him in or out yet, Strelzin said.
Strelzin said Boroski’s belief that it was Nicholaou “doesn’t make a difference investigatively.”
“The goal is, for her and other victims, to get them some answers,” he said.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Trena Reddick said that in the best of situations it takes a couple of weeks to run DNA tests. But variables like the volume of evidence, a backlog and weathered samples complicate the process.
Former Tampa homicide detective Leonard Terrido, who was the chief deputy involved in the Ted Bundy serial murder investigation in Leon County, says the priority is lower because the suspect is dead.
“An innocent man is not sitting in prison. The guy is not going to escape,” Terrido said. “If you’ve got a whole bunch of cases you have to evaluate — a dead man? We’ll get to it when we get to it.”
Boroski still wears the scars of her stabbing 18 years ago. A night shift worker at a factory, she has always feared her attacker was still alive, still watching her. She longs for closure.
“It’s got to be him,” she said. “It’s just got to be.”
Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813-226-3354. Ben Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com or 813-661-2443.