Wednesday, September 16, 2009

* Yale Disappearance Still Unsolved after 25 Years

Letters to the Editor
Yale Daily News

Dear Editor:

I am sorry to add to your somber article (9/16/09) about Ms. Jovin '99's unsolved murder published in the wake of Ms. Le's tragic killing at Yale last week.

During my time at Yale, late '70's early '80's, a young male undergraduate was found dead on the steps of the Catholic Church on Hillhouse Avenue two houses up from the president's house. Apparently he had been mugged the night before and abandoned, leaving him without medical help till morning, when it was too late.

And then there is the unsolved case of the disappearance of divinity student Sam Todd in Greenwich Village New Year's Eve 1984/85. See Connecticut Magazine article on this mystery at the following blog address

I have not changed my original conclusion in that article, even after 25 years: it is possible that Sam Todd could still be alive despite the time and silence of this quarter century which has passed.

Paul Keane
M.A., M.Div., M.Ed.


Conscious Capitalist said...

Mr Keane,
I was a classmate of Sam Todd's at Vassar and we were roommates during our Junior year. I recently read the article you wrote about Sam in your blog post, "Fugitive from God, Country and Yale?" This is an uncannily accurate and detailed portrait of the young man I knew.

I admired Sam's political consciousness in those days. In fact, Sam's father helped me to get a job at the WCC in Geneva. I hoped I would be able to help revolutionaries like Sam did in the nascent Zimbabwe, but I ended up in the Eastern Orthodox division translating theological treatises. Needless to say I didn't last 6 months there. LOL.

After Sam disappeared I helped look for him in soup kitchens and homeless shelters in the lower East side of Manhattan. I'll never forget one young homeless man who looked directly and empathically into my eyes and said, "at least he has people looking for him. He is loved." That one truth shines after all these years.

I never believed Sam was dead. When I spoke to Jill about the possibility that Sam just “stepped out” of his life she rebuked me saying that "Sam would never do this to his family". I knew how much she loved him. I had sensed in Sam an unwillingness or an inability to be loved in any way that would limit his sense of freedom or duty.

I know Sam admired Christ. However, I believe he saw Christ first and foremost as a political figure- as a revolutionary. In sophomore year Sam asked me whether I believed it was better to feed the poor or to allow them to starve in order to bring true revolutionary change. It was easy for us to dare each other’s sensibilities in youthful discourse without consequence. In retrospect, and with the benefit of 30 years of wisdom, I believe Sam had a conflict between Christian service and Marxist utopianism. This resolved into an activist form of Liberation Theology.

I searched scripture after Sam disappeared looking for a clue as to what justification he could provide to himself for walking away from everyone who loved him. At the time I found Luke 8:20. "Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” 21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

From the perspective of adulthood I see the young Sam willing to mold himself in the image of Christ. As a mature follower of Christ I would like to tell the young Sam Todd that it is God who conforms us to His image and not vice versa, and then I would pray with him. All the demanding personal relationships, the academic difficulties, the conflict between forming a fist and extending a hand- all these tensions were something to be endured. James 1: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Could young Sam “step out” of his life with in order to pursue his idea of social justice? I believe he could have. Where did he go? Anywhere he wanted. Sam, wherever you are, I pray that perseverance has finished its work in you and that you are mature and complete and not lacking anything.

Philip Stephano
Pipersville, PA

PAUL D. KEANE said...

Dear Mr. Stephano:

I spent months researching this article. I knew from personal experience that it was possible to be miserably unhappy at YDS and angry, even though I never met Sam Todd.

It seemed to me all the articles at the time were in DENIAL. I believe my research is accurate and forthright. It made some of those I interviewed angry, including, regrettably, his family.

I would like to believe he is still alive.

It is a long time.

Thank you for your sensitive reflections.