26 September 2023

Digital Technology Guru

Digital Technology Guru Reviews

A DNA Breakthrough Leads to Murder Charges in Decades-Old Cold Case

2 min read
A DNA Breakthrough Leads to Murder Charges in Decades-Old Cold Case

A decades-old cold case in Virginia has finally been solved thanks to a DNA breakthrough. Robin Lawrence was found stabbed to death in her home in Springfield, Virginia in November 1994. Despite collecting DNA evidence from the crime scene, the case remained unsolved for years as no matches were found in the police database. However, in 2019, the DNA evidence was submitted to a DNA testing company in Virginia, leading to a breakthrough in the case.

The DNA testing company developed a DNA profile and began searching genealogical databases to establish a family tree. Detectives spent three years using the family tree to piece together the puzzle, which eventually led them to Steven Smerk, a resident of Niskayuna, New York.

To further confirm their suspicions, digital composite sketches from Parabon NanoLabs were created to estimate Smerk’s appearance at the time of the crime. These sketches were compared to photos of Smerk as a younger man, providing additional evidence.

Detectives traveled to New York, interviewed Smerk, and collected a DNA sample. After leaving a business card with Smerk, he called them and confessed to the crime. Smerk then turned himself in at the local police station.

According to Chief Kevin Davis of the Fairfax County Police Department, Smerk provided a full confession with detailed descriptions of the “killing” and “robbing” of Lawrence. The confession, coupled with the genetic genealogy research, quickly brought the case together.

There appears to be no connection between Smerk and Lawrence, suggesting that the crime was a randomly selected act. Smerk has no prior criminal history and is not currently a person of interest or suspect in any other crimes.

After almost 30 years, Steven Smerk is now in custody and will face second-degree murder charges. This breakthrough is an example of how advancements in DNA technology and genetic genealogy can help solve cold cases and bring justice to victims and their families.

– Fairfax County Police Department
– CBS News