9 Years Later, Hoping for a Break in Rowan Campus Murder Case
GLASSBORO — Thursday marks nine years since Rowan University sophomore Donald Farrell was fatally attacked on campus during homecoming weekend.
Video surveillance of the suspect has been circulating online for several years, and a $100,000 reward remains available for information leading to an arrest and conviction. But investigators still don't have much to go on.
The case has been moving "slower and slower" as time passes, according to Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office Chief of Detectives John Porter. But the department never lets cases "go totally cold," he said.
"The case always remains open and as soon as a lead comes in, it is followed up on right away," Porter said. "Nothing is ever put to the back burner."
Porter said the department runs news releases every so often on cases such as this one, hoping someone will have "a moment of clarity" and come forward with information related to the deadly encounter on Oct. 27, 2007.
Farrell, 19, and a group of friends were headed to a campus residence hall after 9 p.m. and made a quick stop at a convenience store. While waiting outside, Farrell and his friends were confronted by a group of men who asked where they could find a party. As Farrell walked away from the conversation, witnesses said, one of the men threw a punch and he was beaten by two of the men.
His wallet and phone were stolen, and Farrell died the next day from a ruptured artery in his neck.
According to Porter, video surveillance from the convenience store shows Farrell's suspected murderer, who identified himself as "Smoke" to people in the area before chatting with Farrell and his friends. A key piece of the puzzle is the hoodie worn by the suspect that night. His Coogi Heritage hooded sweatshirt featured a color scheme that had only been printed 50 times.
"It is kind of a unique piece of clothing, so we're hoping that jogs somebody's memory," Porter said.
As leader of The Donnie Farrell Project, an investigative reporting class that focused only on the murder during the fall 2011 semester, Rowan professor Amy Quinn believes officials will reach a resolution with the case "in some way" down the line.
"What I think will happen is that at some point, someone who was there or knows something will tell someone," Quinn said.
Quinn's class of about a dozen students interviewed Farrell's family and friends along with investigators who worked the scene that night. She said the approach gave her students a "crash course" in investigative journalism and it educated them on a Rowan student "just like them" whose life was cut short in an instant.
"I wouldn't rule it out that we would run another class at one point and revisit it," Quinn said. "I feel like it's a story that's worth revisiting, especially now as Rowan continues to grow and change."