ITHACA, N.Y.—At long last, the Ithaca Police Department believes they have solved a murder that has sat in mystery since it occurred in 1987, with a tragically heroic narrative for its victim.

Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello announced that police believe the suspect who killed David Malcom at the Red Cross Shelter at 717 West Court Street in downtown Ithaca died in 2019. The suspect’s name was not released, but police said he was connected to the crime through DNA evidence and investigative leads. Advancements in forensic science that were not available in the late 1980s were instrumental in solving the crime, according to Monticello.

Malcom, a popular community figure at the time, was found dead in the Red Cross Shelter where he worked on Feb. 12, 1987. Monticello, who led the investigation for IPD for the last several years, said that initial investigation focused on an associate of Malcom, though that theory was eventually dismissed.

After only occasional investigation between 1988 and 2010, Monticello said the investigation picked back up in 2015 and has remained a priority since. As a result of that renewed investigation, police now believe that Malcom died while protecting a victim of domestic violence at the shelter.

“Law enforcement has concluded that the perpetrator of this homicide is the estranged boyfriend of the young teenage girl who went to the shelter on the afternoon of February 11, 1987,” wrote Monticello. “This teenager went there following a domestic incident in the Town of Newfield to seek assistance in relocating away from her boyfriend.”

Monticello said police believe Malcom was killed when he refused to disclose the girl’s location to her abuser, who accosted Malcom at the shelter.

“Mr. Malcom’s heroic actions for not disclosing the whereabouts of the young teen sadly cost him his life,” Monticello said. “His death caused pain to Mr. Malcom’s Family and friends due to his tragic death and for not knowing why he was killed and by whom.”

Monticello credited the New York State Police, the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office, and several other law enforcement agencies both nationwide and local for their help in cracking the case.

Malcom’s family and friends have remained invested in the case. His sister, Hope Maltz, was in town recently to meet with Monticello and Tompkins County District Attorney Matthew Van Houten. Monticello said he apologized to her about the time it took to solve the crime.

While in town, Maltz held a small vigil at a memorial tree in Stewart Park, along with friend Paul Fairbanks, who also knew David at the time of his death, and her husband David Maltz. Maltz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I think Vince should be recognized for all the time and hard work he put into this investigation,” said Van Houten. “I was glad to provide support for the investigation and to meet with David Malcom’s family. While it would have been ideal to prosecute the perpetrator, I’m glad to be able to provide some level of closure to the family.”

Hope Maltz at the tree dedicated to her brother, killed in 1987. Credit: Paul Fairbanks

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief at The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at