A 51-year-old man has been arrested after he called police and confessed to killing a woman almost three decades ago.
Stephen Smerk, of Niskayuna, New York, allegedly admitted to stabbing 37-year-old Robin Lawrence to death at her home in the 8600 block of Reseca Lane, in Springfield, Virginia, back in November 1994 – a cold case murder that has stumped authorities ever since.
Announcing the major development in a press conference on Monday, Fairfax County police said that Mr Smerk told them the attack was random.
“It was a full confession,” FCPD Chief Kevin Davis said.
Mr Smerk, who was an active-duty soldier at the time of the killing, has now been charged with second-degree murder.
He is being held in a New York jail while awaiting extradition to Virginia to face charges.
Lawrence was found dead in her home by a family friend in November 1994. She had been stabbed multiple times.
The victim’s two-year-old daughter was in the house at the time of the vicious attack, according to reports.
The toddler was left to fend for herself for days until her mother’s body was finally discovered by a friend carrying out a welfare check days later.
At the time, authorities were unable to find any matches from DNA collected from the crime scene, but the samples were submitted to a national DNA registry.
Then, years later in 2019, the DNA samples were resubmitted to Parabon NonoLabs – which gathered a family tree and helped develop sketches that would later be used to identify Mr Smerk as a possible suspect.
Fairfax County investigators said they then travelled to New York to speak with Mr Smerk about the case.
Police said he “fully complied” with them, allowing officers to take a DNA swab.
Then, not long after the officers left, Mr Smerk called police and confessed to Lawrence’s murder.
Lauren Ovans, a cousin of Lawrence, said her family was grateful to finally get justice.
At the press conference on Monday, she said: “We as the family… would like to thank the Fairfax and Niskayuna police departments for their work on this case.
“We look forward to learning more about the process and next steps.”