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Murder solved, but questions linger in Lancaster Co. case

Written by Rachel McDevitt, All Things Considered Host | Jan 8, 2019 6:52 PM
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Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman announces charges in a 1992 cold case killing during a news conference at the Lancaster County Courthouse in Lancaster, Pa., Monday, June 25, 2018. A family photo of the victim, Christy Mirack, is seen at right. A popular DJ in Pennsylvania has been charged in the 1992 killing of Mirack, an elementary school teacher who was sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled in her home as she was getting ready for work. (AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)

(Lancaster) -- No one knows why Lancaster County DJ Raymond Charles Rowe killed school teacher Christy Mirack just before Christmas 1992.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said there are some possible connections between the two. Around that time, Rowe worked at a business down the street from where Mirack lived in East Lampeter Township and likely would have passed by her apartment hundreds of times. The 25-year-old Mirack was known to sunbathe and Rowe could have noticed her then. She also socialized at places where Rowe worked as a DJ.

But investigators don't know if the two ever met before the morning he broke into her home, raped, and strangled her. 

"I told the family, ultimately, the bottom line: it really doesn't matter why. He's a rapist and a murderer, and he took their daughter and their sister, and he's being held accountable for it," Stedman said. "There's nothing that he could have said, no explanation that would have made, really, any difference."

As part of a plea deal, Rowe--also known as DJ Freez--will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole for Mirack's killing, plus 60-120 years for rape, burglary, and other charges. He will avoid the death penalty.

Stedman said Rowe, who is now 50, was able to walk free after the crime for longer than Mirack had been alive.

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This Monday, June 25, 2018, photo provided by the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office shows Raymond Charles Rowe, of Lancaster, Pa., a disc jockey arrested Monday and charged with criminal homicide in the 1992 strangulation death of schoolteacher Christy Mirack. Investigators used genealogical information from a close relative and DNA evidence to identify the disc jockey, who uses the professional handle DJ Freez, as the suspect in the long unsolved killing. (Lancaster County District Attorney's Office via AP)

"You know, he left her sexually assaulted and dead on the floor, strangled to death and shut the door and walked back into his life and he stayed there for 26 years, until we caught him," Stedman said.

Lancaster County officials hope the technology used to break this cold case will help solve more.

Though investigators had DNA evidence from the crime scene, they were not able to match it to Rowe until last year, when data from a genealogy database led them to a relative of Rowe's.

Undercover detectives then got Rowe's DNA from a used water bottle and chewing gum at a school where he was DJing to confirm it.

It's the third case in the country and the first in Pennsylvania to be solved using genealogical data.

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