A Md. 'cold case' 25 years later
Vincent Caciola’s body was discovered 25 years ago today in a secluded stretch of woods on Naval Air Station Patuxent River in St. Mary's County. He had been heavily drugged and strangled with a boot lace, his body apparently dumped on the base where he worked as a contract electrical engineer, according to investigators.
Almost everything else about Caciola’s death remains a mystery, a cold case that military and local police continue to investigate and hope they someday will be able to solve. They are now asking for help from the public in turning up any new information that might help them make an arrest.
Caciola’s wife, Kimberly, reported him missing from their California, Md., home late on the night of Aug. 14, 1985. She told authorities that she had been to the base, where she also worked, that night to get some things she had left in her office. Upon returning home, she told police, she found her two children sleeping alone upstairs and no sign of her husband.
Also missing were Caciola’s motorcycle helmet, brown leather boots, gold-rimmed prescription glasses, denim jacket and tan velcro wallet. None of the items have ever been found.
Caciola’s body turned up two days later when a maintenance worker at Patuxent River found it next to a dirt road in a small wooded area leading to Fisherman’s Point.
Police believe Caciola was killed somewhere off the secure base, as he was wearing a T-shirt, cutoff shorts and white socks but had nothing else on him.
Caciola’s body was filled with a lethal dose of a prescription drug that wasn’t his, and the affable, church-going 32-year-old didn’t have any obvious enemies.
He was a proud new father, in a relatively new marriage, and he had a prosperous career ahead of him, authorities and family members said. His death was promptly ruled a homicide.
As in most homicide cases, police immediately began questioning family members and close associates about what might have happened. Officials determined that Caciola was killed right around the same time his wife supposedly last saw him alive.
Kimberly Caciola – now Kimberly Grubbs after a subsequent marriage – has never been charged with a crime or officially named a suspect, but her role in the case has drawn scrutiny over the years.
Shortly after Caciola’s death, a court battle ensued over roughly $200,000 in life insurance to be paid to his family. According to a 1986 story in The Enterprise, a Lexington Park, Md., newspaper, Caciola’s insurers refused to pay his widow because she could have been considered a suspect in his death. A judge later settled the matter, freeing some of the money to Caciola’s widow and some to his then-7-month-old son. Caciola’s father said each got $100,000.
Grubbs, who is now divorced, lives in the Kansas City area. Attempts to reach her in recent days were unsuccessful.
Describing his son as “smart as a whip,” Orlando Caciola, 95, of Severna Park, said “Vince” was a great kid who was going places after graduating from the University of Maryland and taking on complex jobs as an engineer. He said his son was really happy, loved his wife and new baby, and wanted nothing but the best for them. He said he was dumbfounded when he learned of his son’s death.
“He was well-liked by everybody,” Orlando Caciola said. “It was just a real shame. I think about him every day. I miss him every day.”
A widower, Orlando Caciola’s only remaining family is his grandson, the infant boy Vincent Caciola left behind. Orlando Caciola said he has trouble talking to his grandson, now 25, about what happened.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Special Agent Kaylyn Dueker, who is investigating the case, said authorities have developed “persons of interest” in the homicide and said she believes at least two people had to have been involved in Caciola’s death.
She described Caciola’s relationships at the time as being with “highly intelligent” people who worked on sensitive matters at the base, though she said it does not appear that anything he was working on played a role in his death.
“As time goes on, relationships change, and we’ve developed a lot of very good new information,” Dueker said. “We’ve been going over the old evidence developed in 1985 … and the change in relationships over the years has helped clarify things.”
Dueker said authorities believe they know where Caciola was killed but did not want to release that location, as it is an ongoing investigation.
And where Caciola was found has significance, police said: He must have been killed – or his body dumped – by people with access to the secure naval base. “Somebody put him there,” Dueker said.
The NCIS cold case unit has solved 61 homicides since it was launched in 1995, and Dueker said she hopes Caciola’s case will add to that tally. She and local authorities are seeking more information about Caciola’s life and anything that might help her make an arrest in his death.
“What’s unusual about cold cases is that sometimes people don’t realize they have information,” Dueker said. “We’re always looking for new information. We want to hear from people who knew him.”
Police ask that anyone with information about Caciola or his death contact Dueker at Kaylyn.Dueker@navy.mil or St. Mary’s Detective Clay Safford and Clay.Safford@stmarysmd.com or call Crime Solvers at (301) 475-3333.
-- Josh White
August 16, 2010; 10:35 AM ET
Categories: Cold Cases , Homicide , Josh White , St. Mary's , Unsolved
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