A ‘fresh look’ solves decades old cold case murder

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Donna Macho was just 19 when she was reported missing. Former East Windsor man determined conclusively to be the man who killed her

It’s a case that stumped investigators for nearly 40 years.

Donna Macho, 19, went missing from the East Windsor home where she resided with her parents and sisters on or about Feb. 26, 1984. Her skeletal remains were discovered in a wooded area in Cranbury more than a decade later on April 2, 1995. She was positively identified using dental records.

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On April 26, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin and Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri announced Nathaniel Harvey, who died in South Woods State Prison in November 2020, was determined conclusively to be the man who killed Macho in 1984, officials said.

He had been sentenced to life in prison in connection with another homicide in Middlesex County that occurred in the 1980s.

She had been buried in a shallow grave in a wooded area near a farm in Cranbury where Harvey had worked. Her car was found abandoned by a nearby sewer plant that was within walking distance of Harvey’s home.

The former East Windsor man had been arrested in connection with several sexual assaults and an unrelated murder in the that occurred in the Windsor, Plainsboro area around the time that Macho was reported missing, officials said.

Harvey typically entered unlocked houses, where he would rape young women, officials said. He was considered to be a possible suspect in Macho’s sexual assault and murder, but leads into the investigation dissipated and the case went cold.

Fast forward to 2022, when the investigation into Macho’s murder was reopened at the request of Onofri, the Mercer County prosecutor.

The case was presented to the Central Regional Cold Case Task Force. It is one of many task forces statewide that makes up the Cold Case Network in the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability within the Office of the State Attorney General.

All viable evidence was resubmitted to the New Jersey State Police Central Regional Laboratory, including DNA evidence and fingerprints, officials said.

Technicians used cutting-edge technology to link Harvey to the crime, based on semen found in Macho’s bedroom during the initial investigation in 1984. The available technology was not as precise, and it was not possible to match the semen to a specific individual, officials said.

Using present-day DNA technology, investigators determined that the DNA found in Macho’s bedroom matched Harvey’s DNA. They determined that his DNA was the only DNA evidence in the bedroom that should not have been there, officials said.

The initial autopsy ruled that she had suffered a gunshot wound to the head, officials said. Further examination of her remains by the Middlesex Regional Medical Examiner’s Office during the cold case investigation determined that a head injury caused her death, but it was not conclusively a gunshot wound. Her death remains recorded as a homicide.

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