Meet the NJP Team!
Natasha Alexenko is a sexual assault survivor who founded Natasha’s Justice Project in 2011. Prior to her current not-for-profit venture, Ms. Alexenko served as the Executive Director at a Long Island based Museum.
Ms. Alexenko’s story was featured in HBO’s critically acclaimed documentary, Sex Crimes Unit. In 2008, nearly 16 years after she was violently attacked at gunpoint, her perpetrator was found through a DNA match, thanks to the dedication of New York City’s Cold Case Unit.
In addition to her appearance in the HBO documentary, Ms. Alexenko regularly appears on television and radio – including CNN, WPIX, France Channels 1 and 2, and CBS radio – to discuss issues related to law enforcement and sexual assault. She has been featured in several media outlets, including the Associated Press, Variety, New York Times and Newsday. Ms. Alexenko frequently speaks at colleges and other venues across the country striving to educate and inspire through her unique story.
Kristen joins Natasha’s Justice Project following her graduate studies at Stony Brook University. She received her Master’s in Public Health and her Master’s in Business Administration after completing her undergraduate studies at Hofstra University. While at Stony Brook, Kristen interned for Natasha’s Justice Project as a research assistant, working to gather information on the nation’s rape kit backlog crisis. In addition to her internship with NJP, Kristen interned for two years at the Nassau County Department of Health in the Office of Research and Epidemiology. Kristen also enjoys volunteering at local dog shelters on Long Island.
Lauren joins NJP following the completion of a Master’s Degree in Public Health and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Stony Brook University in New York. While in graduate school, Lauren was a seasoned research intern for Natasha’s Justice Project and we are now pleased to have her as a full-time employee. In addition to her dedication to ending the nation’s rape kit backlog, Lauren also volunteers as an Emergency Medical Technician in Suffolk County, New York and enjoys biking the trails of Bethpage State Park in Bethpage, New York.
Following a distinguished 25 year career as a Manhattan prosecutor, Lisa M. Friel joined T&M Protection Resources in October 2011 as Vice President of the Sexual Misconduct Consulting & Investigations division. This division offers consulting, education, training and investigative services to a wide variety of organizations, including schools, colleges and universities, religious institutions, government agencies, hospitals, corporations, labor unions, sports teams and leagues, and law firms representing clients in civil and criminal matters involving sexual misconduct.
Hired by Robert M. Morgenthau, the District Attorney of New York County, in 1983, Ms. Friel specialized in sex crimes cases for the majority of her career. She was the Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office for nearly a decade and its Deputy Chief for 11 years.
Since 1983, Ms. Friel has directed thousands of criminal investigations, has helped convict innumerable sex offenders, murderers, and other felons and has trained countless attorneys, law enforcement, health care and school personnel throughout the world. Lawmakers in Albany and Washington repeatedly called upon her expertise to toughen laws against sexual predators, combat human trafficking, create DNA databanks and establish laws and protocols to eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits.
Currently, Ms. Friel is a member of NJP’s Pilot Project Committee, offering her knowledge and expertise to help eliminate the estimated 400,000 backlogged kits across the United States.
Professor Steven B. Lee holds a BS from SUNY Binghamton in Biology, an MS from NYU and PhD from University of California, Berkeley in Molecular Biology. He is currently a Professor and the Director of Forensic Science in the Department of Justice Studies, College of Applied Sciences and Arts at San Jose State University. Dr. Lee is also a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley and serves frequently as a consultant or trainer in forensic DNA. He was formerly the Director of Research &Development at California Department of Justice DNA Laboratory from 1994-2000, where he served as an expert witness in DNA, spearheaded the implementation of robotics for sample processing, DNA extraction and STR amplification, and conducted DNA training courses. He is a Fellow in the Criminalistics section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, full member of the California Association of Criminalists, American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Science Teachers Association and is qualified as an American Society of Crime Laboratory Director’s Laboratory Accreditation Board inspector. Dr. Lee recently teamed up with NJP in hopes of tackling the elimination of Alameada County’s rape kit backlog.
Mark Murray is the founder of the Murray Law Group PC, an evolution of his former firm, Murray and Hopkins. Mark has also expanded the firm’s strong pro bono service by extending its program focus to the needs of our nation’s returning veterans.
Mark has over a quarter century of experience handling matters for clients, other attorneys and not for profit organizations. He has represented his clients as well as hundreds of clients represented by other attorneys in state and federal courts throughout Long Island and the New York metropolitan area.
In 1984 Mark earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Niagara University with a double major in Management and Labor Relations. The Vincentian training at Niagara helped repair most of the damage done by a public school education in the 1970s. In 1989 Mark was awarded a juris doctorate from Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, an Orthodox Jewish institution.
Mark has handled cases on personal, commercial claims, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claims, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) claims, Election Law, banking law claims, civil rights claims and employment claims for his own clients and as counsel to the profession, other firms, small, medium and large from this area and around the country.
Mark has been part of the NJP team since its inception in 2011.
Tia Palermo is Assistant Professor in the Graduate Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and an M.S. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, she worked for Ipas, an international NGO dedicated to reducing maternal morbidity and mortality, and she has also worked in various capacities with other international organizations, including Family Care International, UNICEF, and Population Council, on topics related to reproductive health and gender and development. Her research interests include gender-based violence, reproductive health, and social policy, particularly Africa, Latin America, and the US. She is currently collaborating with NJP on a project examining protocols on the processing of sexual assault evidence collection kit in New York State.
Richard Santangelo is a retired First Grade Detective from the New York City Police Department. He retired in July 2012 after 25 years of service, with more than 17 years assigned to the Special Victims Squad (SVS). During his tenure in the SVS, Richard investigated various degrees of sexual assault, including stranger rape cases, acquaintance rape cases, statutory sex crimes, pattern rape cases, child abuse, and cold hit DNA cases. He was also assigned to the NYPD Rape Kit Back Log Project, in which the NYPD cleared its approximately 17,000 backlogged rape kits.
Through his experience, Richard has acquired a vast amount of knowledge in the field of sexual assault and cold case DNA investigations. In addition to his work with SVS, Richard was a negotiator for NYPD’s Hostage Negotiation Team, and he was also utilized for executive protection details.
Earlier this year, Richard met Natasha in Albany as Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the nation’s first All Crimes DNA Bill. After a brief introduction, both Natasha and Richard instantly knew that they would be joining forces to help eliminate the nation’s rape kit back log.
Bart Schwartz has extensive experience as a trial lawyer, corporate advisor and CEO of a private company and a unit of a public company. For more than 30 years, Mr. Schwartz has managed complex investigations, prosecutions and security assessments, and provided sophisticated investigative services to a wide array of clients. He is currently the Chairman and CEO of SolutionPoint International, Inc. Mr. Schwartz was also recently appointed to the board of HMS Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ:HMSY) where he serves as the Chairperson of the Compliance Committee.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Schwartz served under United States Attorney Rudolph Giuliani as the Chief of the Criminal Division in the Southern District of New York. In that post, he had direct responsibility for overseeing prosecutions related to financial and business fraud, organized crime, and other types of white collar crime.
Robert C. Shaler recently retired as a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology from Pennsylvania State University after having served as the founding director of the Penn State Forensic Science Program from 2005 to 2010. Shaler is well known for supervising the massive DNA-testing effort to identify thousands of victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and is the author of Who They Were: Inside the World Trade Center DNA Story:The Unprecedented Effort to Identify the Missing.
In addition to teaching and doing research, Shaler has served as a forensic-science consultant for government agencies and professional organizations. He was a member of the American Bar Association Task Force on Biological Evidence and was an author of a 2009 National Research Council (NRC) report, “Strengthening the Forensic Sciences — A Path Forward,” published by the National Academy of Sciences. He currently serves on another NRC committee studying the FBI’s scientific response to the 2001 anthrax mailings. His other professional activities have included serving on the editorial review board of the American Journal of Forensic Pathology and Medicine and as an invited reviewer for the New England Journal of Medicine. He was a member and the chair of the New York State Crime Laboratory Advisory Committee, and he also has been an expert guest commentator for Court TV.