‘Somebody knows what happened’: Newburgh Heights police reexamine evidence in 1981 cold case

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NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW)– Newburgh Heights police are teaming up with college students to reopen a decades-old cold case.

Kurt Sova, 17, vanished after he was left alone outside a party at a home on Harvard Avenue on Oct. 23, 1981. Investigators said his body was discovered five days later in a ravine about 500 yards from the house.

“We really strongly believe there are people out there who have information, and we need them to come forward in this case,” said Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy.

The coroner could not determine an exact cause of death, but ruled Sova had been dead less than 24 hours from the time he was found, even though he had been missing for five days, according to police.

There were no apparent injuries and Sova’s blood alcohol content was around .11, near the legal limit of .08, according to Majoy.

Sova’s body was found in an area that had previously been searched extensively, leading investigators to conclude the body was placed there after his death, according to police.

“The biggest question is how'd he get there, how did he get there? He didn't walk there, there's no way he walked there, and the evidence shows that. Somebody put him there. Who put him there?” Majoy said.

The case was featured on the television show “Unsolved Mysteries” several times and has been a source of speculation for decades – including involving possible connections to a cult and similarities to the case of another teen boy, who was also found dead and missing one shoe.

Now, the Newburgh Heights Police Department is partnering with a Tiffin University professor of criminal justice and a dozen students after Majoy said the professor approached him about reexamining the case.

The students and investigators plan to analyze and evaluate evidence in the case, including troves of information collected by Kurt’s mother, Dorothy Sova.

“There may be another key piece of information in those files that we just haven't seen yet,” Majoy said.

Dorothy Sova spent years trying to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s death before she passed away in 2014.

“She was determined to find out what happened to my brother,” Kevin Sova said. He said the family is seeking closure and answers about his younger brother’s death.

“At least we'll be able to have some answers. My family deserves that, we deserve to know what happened to him,” Kevin Sova said.

Police are seeking information from any witnesses. Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest. Crime Stoppers can be reached at 216-252-7463 and tips can also be made to the Newburgh Heights Police Department tip line at 216-386-0024.

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