Amid National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Decades-Old Mystery of East Windsor Teen’s Death Is Solved
April 26, 2023
EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER) — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri announced that a collaborative, multi-agency investigation by the Mercer County Homicide Task Force in conjunction with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Cold Case Network and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) has resulted in the conclusive identification of Nathaniel Harvey, formerly of East Windsor, as the individual responsible for the sexual assault and murder of Donna Macho in 1984. Harvey died in South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton in November 2020.
Ms. Macho, 19, went missing from the East Windsor home where she resided with her parents and sisters on or about February 26, 1984. Her skeletal remains were discovered in a wooded area in Cranbury, N.J., on April 2, 1995, and she was positively identified using dental records.
Throughout the initial and subsequent investigation by the East Windsor Township Police Department, with assistance from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, persons of interest were developed in the case. Harvey, who was arrested around the same time Ms. Macho went missing and held in connection with several sexual assaults as well as an unrelated murder in the Windsor/Plainsboro, N.J. area, was identified early on as a possible suspect, but investigative leads dissipated and the case went cold. During the commission of his crimes, prosecutors say Harvey typically entered unlocked homes, where he would hold captive and rape young women.
In February 2022, at the direction of Prosecutor Onofri, the case was presented to the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability’s Central Regional Cold Case Task Force, one of the task forces statewide that makes up the Cold Case Network, formed in 2019. The investigation was reopened.
All viable physical evidence was resubmitted to the NJSP Central Regional Laboratory, including DNA evidence and fingerprints. During the initial investigation police found Harvey’s semen in Ms. Macho’s bedroom. But DNA testing was less precise at the time, and the testing conducted on that evidence was unable to match the bodily fluid to one specific individual. The reinvestigation of the case, and reexamination of the evidence using present-day DNA technology, matched it to Mr. Harvey, and determined that his DNA was the only DNA evidence in the room that should not have been present.
Ms. Macho’s body was found in April 1995 in a wooded area by a farm that Harvey briefly worked at around the time of her disappearance. Her vehicle was found abandoned by a nearby sewer plant, within walking distance of Harvey’s residence.
Though the initial autopsy ruled Ms. Macho suffered a gunshot wound to her head, further examination of her remains by the Middlesex Regional Medical Examiner’s Office during this cold case investigation determined that, although it was clear a head injury caused the victim’s death, it was not conclusively a gunshot wound. The cause of death was amended to evidence of homicidal violence and Ms. Macho’s manner of death remained recorded a homicide.
Harvey was sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with a different homicide in Middlesex County, and he remained incarcerated from the time of his arrest in 1985 until his death in 2020.
“By sharing personnel, expertise, and technological resources, the Central Regional Cold Case Task Force took a fresh look at this decades-old mystery and identified the suspect in this horrific crime,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “We are grateful Prosecutor Onofri referred this case to the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, and that all the agencies involved collaborated as a team to bring some resolution to the victim’s family. The life and the loss of Donna Macho was not forgotten, and this announcement illustrates the Cold Case Network will not relent in its pursuit of justice.”
“This case illustrates the importance and effectiveness of the Cold Case Network, and its ability to dedicate resources, including cutting-edge technology, to revive cold cases, apply previously unavailable tools to reexamine evidence and bring resolution to grieving families long haunted by unanswered questions,” said Carolyn Murray, Director of the Integrity Bureau of OPIA, which includes the Cold Case Network. “It also ensures with greater accuracy that the proper suspects are identified in connection with these cases, and those who are innocent are not falsely accused of criminal conduct.”
“Nearly 40 years have passed since the life of a 19-year-old was mercilessly stolen by a predator who discarded her remains in a shallow grave, leaving them unrecovered for more than 10 years,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Time does not erase the quest for justice, and although this murderer was imprisoned for another killing and died in custody in 2020, it does not make this conclusion any less meaningful. I applaud the Central Regional Cold Case Task Force and the State Police forensic scientists who were hopefully able to offer the slightest measure of consolation to the victim’s family after all these years.”
“All of the evidence that was viable to be tested has been tested and all leads have been exhausted,” said Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri. “After a comprehensive, cooperative investigation, cold case detectives were able to eliminate other potential suspects and are confident that Nathaniel Harvey is the perpetrator in the sexual assault and murder of Ms. Macho and the case is now closed.”
“I’m grateful to the Attorney General’s Office and the NJSP for the formation of the Cold Case Task Force,” said Prosecutor Onofri. “The technological and investigative resources made possible through this collaboration of law enforcement agencies are invaluable and allow us to bring some closure to families like the Machos after decades of questions and uncertainty.”
Attorney General Platkin and Prosecutor Onofri commended all of the Central Regional Cold Case Task Force’s participating agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability under the leadership of OPIA Executive Director Tom Eicher, the New Jersey State Police, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office.
They also expressed their appreciation to the NJSP Office of Forensic Sciences, the NJSP Central Regional Laboratory, the Middlesex Regional Medical Examiner’s Office, the New Jersey Department of Corrections’ Special Investigations Division, and the East Windsor Township Police Department for their assistance.