It's long seemed clear who killed Madison resident Joel Marino in January 2008. Adam Peterson, 20, was arrested last June based on eyewitness identifications, DNA evidence and incriminating admissions. He pleaded guilty last December and was sentenced to life in prison. A month later he hung himself in his cell. Last week Peterson's former cellmate was charged with assisting in his suicide.
But while all this has happened, there's been no word as to who if anyone will get the $45,000 in reward money offered for information leading to the conviction of the killer.
That bothers John Williamson, the proprietor of Sports World on State Street. His employee, Livia Novitski, played a key role in solving the case. Police traced a backpack found near the crime to the store, and she remembered the customer.
"He came in in a hurry, enough that Livia noticed," relates Williamson. "He asked where the cheapest backpacks were." The young man paid and left in similar haste.
Novitski helped police produce a widely circulated suspect sketch. "Size, hair color, she had all that pegged," says Williamson proudly. She also identified a hat found near the crime as belonging to this customer; hairs from that hat provided the crime scene DNA.
Lou Marino, Joel's father, told Isthmus last summer ("Reward Money Up for Grabs," 8/8/08) he hopes the money is allocated, lest the reward fund "become a sham" that causes skepticism about similar offers. (The family of slain UW student Brittany Zimmermann has also set up a reward fund, now at $15,000.)
In March 2008, downtown Madison resident John Broda contacted police to report seeing the man in the sketch at Capitol Centre Foods, where Peterson had worked. Broda and Novitski each later picked Peterson out of a photo lineup.
Both could use the cash. Novitski is a student seeking a degree in criminology and hoping to become a cop. Broda is disabled and has multiple health problems. Will either share in the offered reward?
"I can't comment on that," says Bryan Bazan, a friend of Marino's who created the reward fund. "I can't give you any information as to who is going to get money and who isn't."
Bazan is actively working with others, including police, to determine where the money, actually about $43,000, will go. He says there are "legal stipulations tied to some of the money that was donated" that are still being sorted out.
Decisions will be made and announced in the near future, although Bazan says the names of recipients will be released only with their permission. All the money will go to appropriate destinations and "not to me." He adds, "There's a lot of people who've called me and said they deserve reward money, but they didn't help solve the crime."