It’s been 38 years since 17-year-old State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill freshman Katherine Kolodziej was viciously murdered after leaving The Vault, a bar near the campus. She had been attending classes there for only two months.
On Nov. 26, 1974, more than three weeks after she disappeared, her body was discovered atop a stone wall off McDonald Road in Richmondville, just south of state Route 7.
She had been stabbed with a knife and another sharp instrument, possibly a screwdriver, authorities said. Her body, clad in a red coat, was lying face up.
Over the months that followed, police investigators interviewed thousands of people — including every student on campus — but came up with no solid clues pointing to the identify of the killer or killers.
The case has remained open. While police said they have tracked down every lead that has come their way — including interviewing such serial killers as the late Theodore “Ted” Bundy of Florida and Lewis Lent of Massachusetts — no one has been charged in connection with the grisly attack.
Now, New York State Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the Kolodziej killing.
“We know that money does make tongues wag,” said Robert Pavone, the chairman of the state Crime Stoppers organization and a retired police chief from Cortlandt.
Pavone said Crime Stoppers is suited to reel in significant tips because it allows its informants to remain anonymous.
“If someone has knowledge of one of these crimes,” he said, “the last thing they want to do is call the police.”
Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said that he is hopeful that the reward offer and a new billboard erected by Crime Stoppers on state Route 7 near Cobleskill will shake loose some fresh information.
“Over the years, I have had a lot of ideas about who did it, but none of them have panned out,” said Desmond, who noted the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation is heading the probe.
Following the fatal attack, investigators interviewed an elderly woman who had related how she watched through the window of her second story apartment on West Main Street in Cobleskill as a young woman got into a yellow Volkswagen sedan in the vicinity of where Kolodziej was last seen.
“Every yellow Volkswagen in the area was looked at — but we couldn’t come up with anything,” the sheriff recalled.
Pavone said cold cases can sometimes heat up suddenly when a witness who had been previously reluctant to share information.
Crime Stoppers helped to stimulate information for state police on a number of cases, he said, including the successful manhunt for Ralph “Bucky” Phillips, who shot three troopers, one of them fatally, six years ago after escaping from a Pennsylvania. If they did not want to share their names, callers were given coded numbers they could use in the event their tip was considered one that helped solve the crime.
Pavone said anyone with information about the killing may contact the Crime Stoppers Hotline at (866) 313-TIPS.