— Proving that TV can be good for you after all, a 24-year-old “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” fanatic helped police nab a suspected serial robber in New York, thanks to the amateur sleuthing skills she picked up watching the long-running television series.
It was a day just like any other day when the fast-talking stranger entered City Lights Media in midtown Manhattan, telling assistant Justine Faeth he had an idea for a show — something involving 50 Cent, Faeth said — and wanted to talk to someone about it.
Faeth told the man that he needed an appointment to talk to an executive, but the intrusive visitor continued to hang around. “We don’t allow walk-ins,” Faeth told hosts Matt Lauer and Ann Curry on TODAY Thursday. “So I gave him some information, like e-mail [addresses], and I told him he could set up a meeting. I thought he was annoying, like, ‘Just go away; I’m trying to work,’ ” she added.
Items left behind
Then the man told Faeth he felt sick and needed a glass of water. A wary Faeth directed him to the kitchen to get his own water. Leaving his used cup and a used tissue on Faeth’s desk, the man finally left the office via the stairwell, Faeth said.
It wasn’t long after that Faeth discovered that a wallet, an iPod and a cell phone were missing from a co-worker’s purse, which was discovered in the stairwell. Having seen every episode of “Law & Order: SVU,” Faeth thought: What would the show’s intrepid female sleuth, Detective Olivia Benson, do in this situation?
Suspecting that it was the slick stranger who had stolen the missing items, Faeth alertly saved the cup and tissue he used, knowing they might contain helpful DNA evidence. However, when police came to investigate, they said DNA was used mainly in major cases such as rape and murder, so they did not take the cup and tissue, according to Faeth.
But Faeth’s faith in “SVU” would pay off after all. After viewing a video surveillance tape, police returned the next day to ask if Faeth still had the evidence. Fortunately she did, and police were able to match DNA samples from the cup and tissue to a man in their criminal database.
The DNA turned out to belong to Kevin Moore, 50, an ex-convict with a lengthy rap sheet; police told the New York Post that Moore may be responsible for several similar robberies across the city. He was charged with burglary and grand larceny on Aug. 21, police said.
Faeth credited her “Law & Order” addiction and the science of genetics for helping to nab Moore. “I have family in law [enforcement], so I think it might be in my blood,” she explained on TODAY. “I’m just happy he was caught and I was able to help.”
The quick-thinking heroine even got an on-air shout-out from a surprise caller — actress Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: SVU.”
Hargitay praised Faeth for her presence of mind: “I am impressed! I better watch out for my job!”
Faeth said she’d probably stick with the media business, but said she loved Hargitay and her “Law & Order: SVU” co-star Christopher Meloni, who plays hunky detective Elliot Stabler on the long-running series.
And like any good detective, Faeth had some questions for Hargitay. “Where’s Elliot, by the way?”