Another cold case has been cracked thanks to advances in DNA profiling: The 1992 rape and murder of Christy Mirack, a Pennsylvania school teacher.
Rowe, 49, will be charged with first-degree murder and likely face the death penalty, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said at a news conference announcing the arrest.
“This killer was at liberty for this brutal crime longer than Christy Mirack was on this earth alive,” Stedman said. “His apprehension was long overdue."
As a child, Mirack role-played teacher with her brother and sister, according to a 2010 CNN report on the case. “Her dream in life from early on was to be a schoolteacher,'' Mirack’s brother, Vince, said at the time. But soon after she became a sixth-grade teacher at Rohrerstown Elementary School, ''it was taken away from her,” he said.
Mirack's body was found in her home by the school’s principal on December 21, 1992, after she didn't show up at work and repeated calls to her home went unanswered, according to Penn Live in Harrisburg.
The 25-year-old teacher had been beaten, strangled and raped. Her pants and underwear were ripped off, while her shirt and jacket were pushed upwards. A wooden cutting board was beside her. Semen was inside her, and beneath her, according to Lancaster Online.
She was also surrounded by Christmas presents for her students, with a note saying ,"Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a great 1993! Love, Miss Mirack.”
Stedman, the prosecutor, said Monday that conventional criminal investigation techniques had left police stumped until they turned to Parabon NanoLabs, a commercial genetic profiling company whose work has recently lead to arrests in cold cases around the country, including the Golden State Killer suspect.
“Quite honestly at that point in time we didn’t have any more arrows in the quiver,” Stedman said. “Parabon was really our last shot. Little did we know at the time, it turned out to be our best.”
Using DNA in the semen the suspect left at the scene, a genetic genealogist at Parabon found comparable DNA in a publicly available sample that identified Rowe’s relatives, according to the Washington Post. Police then secretly obtained a sample of Rowe’s DNA he left on a water bottle and chewing gum while DJing an event at a school in late May.
Police sent that DNA to a state crime lab for comparison with the genetic evidence the suspect left at the scene of Mirack’s murder in 1992. The results came back to Lancaster police on June 22, identifying Rowe. He was arrested without incident at his home on Monday.
“It's a bittersweet day for me and my family," Mirack’s brother Vince told reporters on Monday, according to PennLive. "Nothing can change the loss of my sister, Christy, but we can move forward in the right direction."
[Photo: Lancaster County District Attorney]