FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Stephan Smerk, 51, of Niskayuna, N.Y., was charged with killing Robin Lawrence in her Springfield, Va. home in November of 1994.
Lawrence’s husband was away on business and couldn’t get a hold of her. He sent a family friend to check on her, who found then-37-year-old Lawrence stabbed to death and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter unharmed in another room.
“It was a heinous, heinous scene,” said Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis.
The case sat cold for 29 years until a breakthrough in DNA analysis using a single piece of forensic evidence led to a match.
At the time of the killing, Smerk was serving in the Army based at Fort Myer. Investigators said his decision to kill Lawrence was entirely random.
In 2019, cold case detectives submitted forensic evidence to a database operated by the company Paragon NanoLabs. The database used DNA analysis and phenotyping to create a rendering of the suspect. It also began constructing a family tree using various DNA databases.
The digging pointed to Smerk, who was working as a software engineer in New York State at the time of his arrest.
Investigators from Fairfax Co. initially traveled to Niskayuna to advance their investigation. Driving by his house, they saw Smerk taking out his trash and spoke to him.
Smerk consented to taking a DNA test and later called detectives wanting to talk. Investigators said they met him at the Niskayuna Police Department, where he confessed to the killing. They said Smerk gave a great amount of details about the day.
He is currently being held as a fugitive in New York. Police said he is not protesting his extradition to Virginia.