Suspect Identified in 1984 Sexual Assault and Homicide Case in East Windsor, NJ
Law enforcement officials have announced that, after nearly four decades, a collaborative, multi-agency investigation has conclusively identified Nathaniel Harvey as the individual responsible for the sexual assault and murder of 19-year-old Donna Macho in East Windsor, New Jersey in 1984. Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri made the announcement during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The investigation was carried out by the Mercer County Homicide Task Force, in partnership with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Cold Case Network and the New Jersey State Police.
Harvey, who died in South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton in November 2020, was identified early in the original investigation conducted by the East Windsor Township Police Department as a possible suspect. However, investigative leads dissipated and the case went cold. Harvey was arrested around the same time Macho disappeared and was held in connection with several sexual assaults as well as an unrelated murder in the Windsor/Plainsboro area.
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 reopened and 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.
All viable physical evidence, including DNA evidence and fingerprints, was resubmitted to the NJSP Central Regional Laboratory for reexamination using present-day DNA technology. 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 led to a new match of the DNA evidence to Harvey, and determined that his DNA was the only DNA evidence in the room that should not have been present.
Ms. Macho’s skeletal remains were discovered in a wooded area in Cranbury, NJ, on April 2, 1995, and she was positively identified using dental records. Although 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. Both Platkin and Onofri praised the Central Regional Cold Case Task Force, as well as other agencies involved, for their unwavering commitment in the quest for justice. The case remains closed after all leads were exhausted.
Each participating agency was acknowledged for their invaluable contribution in the case resolution. The Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability played a key role through the Cold Case Network under the leadership of OPIA Executive Director Tom Eicher. 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 also provided significant assistance.