Suspect finally arrested in fatal stabbing of Virginia woman after nearly 29 years, thanks to DNA

Francis Akhalbey September 13, 2023
Robin Lawrence (right) was found fatally stabbed on November 20, 1994 -- Photos via Fairfax County Police Department

Authorities in Fairfax County announced the arrest of a man linked to a case involving a woman who was fatally stabbed nearly 29 years ago. Per PEOPLE, 51-year-old Stephan Smerk was recently arrested over the murder of Robin Lawrence after authorities ultimately linked him to the crime through DNA testing.

Lawrence was found fatally stabbed in her Springfield, Virginia, home on November 20, 1994. Authorities in a statement said that during the initial investigation, detectives attempted to get to the bottom of the crime by interviewing suspects as well as witnesses and also retrieving evidence from the murder scene. And though a DNA profile was ultimately developed that same year, there was no match for that in any system.

In the subsequent years, detectives from the Cold Case unit continued with their investigation into Lawrence’s murder. A familial DNA matching that of Smerk’s was ultimately found, the Fairfax County Police Department said in the statement, adding that detectives also determined the suspect was working in the location at the time of the killing.

“Pictures of Smerk from 1988 and 1998 were found and compared to a digital composite image created” by the DNA technology company Parabon NanoLabs, the statement said. The company “specializes in DNA phenotyping and genetic genealogy analysis: processes that predict physical appearance and biological relationships from unidentified DNA evidence.”

Following the discovery, detectives then traveled to New York and obtained a confession from Smerk. He has since been charged with second-degree murder. 

“Our cold case detectives exhibit unparalleled dedication when it comes to closing a case with many unknowns,” said Chief of Police Kevin Davis. “This case is but one example of how our department’s police work goes above and beyond, and it exemplifies our commitment to delivering justice regardless of the timeline.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 13, 2023


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