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Crime News Dateline

Beloved Teacher Found Slain Right Before Christmas — Who Attacked Her In Broad Daylight?

Christy Mirack was found savagely murdered on Dec. 22, 1992 after she had failed to show up at the elementary school where she had been a beloved teacher. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Christy Mirack Raymond Rowe Da

Just days before Christmas in 1992, beloved teacher Christy Mirack was moments away from leaving her apartment for one of her final classes before winter break, armed with the Christmas presents she had wrapped for her students. But the 25-year-old would never arrive at the Lancaster County elementary school.

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She was found dead by her school principal just hours later, splayed out across the living room floor after what future Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman described as a “brutal struggle.”

“It was a nightmare scene,” Stedman, who had been a beginning prosecutor at the time of the murder, told "Dateline: Secrets Uncovered," airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. “Not only the fact that you had this young teacher who was brutally murdered, but she had been sexually assaulted on top of that.”

The presents Mirack had so carefully wrapped were strewn about the crime scene.

For decades, the murder would haunt the quiet Pennsylvania community, known for its Amish farms and wholesome values, until genetic genealogy revealed an unlikely killer hiding in plain sight.

A Passionate Educator

Before her death, Mirack had been a high-spirited and devoted teacher, whose life was centered around her students, family, and close-knit group of friends from college, who she had been out dancing with less than 48 hours before her death.

“We would go to different clubs and we probably made ourselves known. ‘We’re here, come look at us’ in a fun way,” one of her friends later told “Dateline” correspondent Andrea Canning.

After college, some of the girls, including Mirack, had settled in an apartment complex just outside downtown Lancaster and Mirack began her dream job as a teacher.

“She wasn’t just satisfied with being a good teacher, she wanted to be a great teacher,” then-principal Harry Goodman said.  “She was creative and she had the kids motivated. They were captivated. Some people would drag themselves into work. Christy didn’t look at it as work.”

A Troubling Absence

Every morning, Mirack would arrive before 8 a.m., but on the morning of Dec. 21, 1992, Mirack didn’t arrive at her usual time.

By 8:30 a.m., the students began to arrive and Goodman was concerned. He phoned her apartment repeatedly, called her family, and then set out to her apartment, thinking he’d likely find her along the way, hampered by car trouble.

Just after 9 a.m., he pulled into her apartment complex and noticed her car still sitting untouched in the parking lot.

Goodman approached her apartment and made the disturbing discovery that the apartment door had been left ajar. He found the 25-year-old dead inside.

A Gruesome Murder

Mirack was wearing her gloves, leading investigators to believe she had been leaving the house when her killer pushed her back inside and attacked her.

“I think she was overpowered pretty quickly,” Stedman said. “I mean where she was murdered was not far away at all from the entry point.”

Investigators knew her killer had to be brazen to pull off the daylight attack, but they didn’t know who would have wanted to kill the beloved teacher.

Mirack’s roommate Mary Lesko told police she had left their apartment at around 7 that morning, noting that Mirack had seemed distracted — although she didn’t know why.

Mysterious Suitor

Police began to pore through Mirack’s personal life and discovered that before her death she had been dating an older man about 20 years her senior, who went by the nickname “Dagger.”  Her friends hadn’t been impressed, but Mirack seemed committed to Dagger, who had worked as the president of the local Teamsters.

“I think she felt cared for. I don’t even know how, whether that was financially or what, but I think she felt cared for,” one of her friends recalled of the unlikely pairing.

While her friends didn’t know much about Dagger, they knew he wasn’t in any rush to get married, something they felt bothered their friend. Then, just two days before she was killed, Mirack told her friends that the relationship was ending.

Suspicion grew around her secret suitor after a troubling incident at Mirack’s school just a day after her murder. One of the school’s administrators reported stopping a man in the hallway, who told him he was there to see the slain teacher, claiming he hadn’t realized she died.

Police later identified the visitor as Dagger. But while the school visit had been unnerving to the school administrator, at the time of the murder, Dagger had an airtight alibi. He had been hundreds of miles away in Virginia, where he had recently moved with his wife.

The man also submitted a DNA sample, which didn’t match the DNA found at the crime scene as part of the sexual assault.

The Case Goes Cold

Investigators also ruled out the possibility of a hired hit, noting that hired hitmen don’t typically get into hand-to-hand combat with their victim or leave evidence, including DNA, behind.

Police even looked into Goodman — the principal who had driven to Mirack’s home — after questions arose about whether he had been a little too concerned about his missing teacher. Goodman was later ruled out after his alibi was confirmed and his DNA wasn’t a match to the evidence at the scene.

 “We looked at suspect after suspect after suspect,” Stedman said.

Mirack’s neighbors reported seeing a white car outside her apartment just before the murder, but investigators weren’t able to identify any viable suspects with the limited information.

Genetic Genealogy Breakthrough

Eventually the case went cold. It wasn’t until decades later that investigators decided to use emerging DNA technology to determine the genetic phenotype of the killer.

With the help of Parabon NanoLabs, investigators learned in 2016 that Mirack’s killer was a mix of Latino and European descent, and created a sketch of what the killer may have looked like using the genetic information.

The sketch didn’t produce any viable suspects, but when genetic genealogy advancements were made a few years later, allowing investigators to identify relatives of the killer through public DNA database searches, authorities finally got the break they needed.

The suspected killer was identified as a popular local DJ, Raymond Rowe. Rowe, who often worked under the name DJ Freez, had no known connection to Mirack, but had worked at the time of the murder as a DJ at some of the popular clubs.

Rowe’s day job had also been close to Mirack’s apartment, leading Stedman to believe it was possible Rowe frequently drove by her apartment building.

“I think it was targeted. I think that she had encountered him at some event before and my guess is, had spurned him, and he saw her out there at that apartment at some point,” Stedman said of the possible motive.

Investigators confirmed Rowe’s DNA matched the evidence left behind at the crime scene.

Rowe pleaded guilty to the rape and murder in 2019, but tried to withdraw his plea in 2021, according to Lancaster Online.