20/20 on ID are investigating another case where genetic genealogy was the key to solving a cold case. This time it was the murder of Christy Mirack near Lancaster, Pennslyvania, in 1992.
Her murder remained unsolved for 25 years until genetic DNA evidence pointed in the direction of a local DJ named Raymond Rowe, aka DJ Freez.
On December 21, 1992, 25-year-old school teacher Christy was at her home in East Lampeter and was preparing to head off to work when she was savagely attacked. She was beaten, raped, and strangled to death.
When Christy failed to turn up for work, she was reported missing. Her body was subsequently discovered lying on the floor of her home. A wooden cutting board used in the attack was found near her remains.
Crucially, the detectives were able to recover DNA from the carpet, but in the meantime, the case grew cold and remained unsolved for a quarter of a century.
In 2018, investigators decided to upload the DNA from the crime scene into a genetic genealogy database. This pioneering technology first used in the Golden State Killer case allows the police to identify the family of killers based on DNA submitted to genealogy websites by relatives.
The results pointed investigators in the direction of Raymond Rowe, a DJ who had become something of a minor celebrity in the Lancaster area since Christy’s death.
When investigators learned that Rowe was performing a DJ set a school, they sent in undercover detectives who managed to swipe a water bottle he’d been using, along with some chewing gum. They compared his fresh DNA with that from the initial crime scene and found it matched.
Genetic genealogy strikes again in the Mirack case
In January 2019, Rowe, who was then 50-years-old, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, rape, and several other counts. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and the judge also added a consecutive sentence of 60 to 120 years. He avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty.
At his sentencing, he apologized to Christy’s family, and he said, “I’m sorry, sir, to the family. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
A motive for the murder was never properly established, but it’s thought that Rowe lived and worked in the area where Christy lived, and the police believe she attended some of his performances, which suggests they may have known each other.
More from 20/20 on ID
Follow the links to read about more crimes profiled on 20/20 on ID.
During the 2008 financial crash, a group of New York strippers stole thousands of dollars from wealthy clients by drugging them at strip joints and stealing their credit cards. Their crimes were the subject of the 2019 Jennifer Lopez movie Hustlers.
Amanda “Mandy” Stavik was kidnapped, raped, and murdered as she went jogging near her home in rural Washington state. The case grew cold for 30 years until her neighbor, Timothy Bass, was finally arrested for the crime.
20/20 on ID airs at 11/10c on Investigation Discovery.