An entertainer who goes by “DJ Freez” was performing at a Pennsylvania elementary school in May when he left behind two innocuous items: a water bottle and a piece of gum.
But those two bits of evidence got the DJ — 49-year-old Raymond Rowe — charged with criminal homicide in a decades-old cold case, according to Pennsylvania prosecutors. He was arrested at his home in Lancaster on Monday afternoon.
Authorities used DNA from the water bottle and chewing gum to link Rowe to the brutal 1992 rape and murder of Christy Mirack, then a 25-year-old school teacher, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
“To say this is a major development would be quite the understatement,” District Attorney Craig Stedman said in a statement announcing Rowe’s arrest. “It is a huge step toward providing long-overdue closure for Christy’s family and friends who have spent decades wondering who brutally murdered their loved one.”
Rowe is being held without bail, prosecutors said.
Mirack was discovered dead, strangled and raped in her East Lampeter Township home on Dec. 21, 1992, according to prosecutors. She hadn’t gone in to school that day, so a coworker went to check on her and found her body.
At the time of her death, Mirack was dressed up to go outside, wearing gloves and a coat, authorities said. That suggested an intruder surprised her just as she was about to leave her home. Her roommate had left at 7 a.m., just before the attack; Mirack usually headed out closer to 7:30 a.m., authorities said.
Neighbors told investigators at the time that they overheard “a high-pitched, unexpected scream from the home” around the time of the murder, according to prosecutors.
Not far from Mirack’s body, detectives located a wooden cutting board — a weapon the intruder had struck her with, leaving her with blunt force trauma, according to prosecutors.
Investigators’ recent break in the case came after sending in 25-year-old DNA evidence from the crime scene to Parabon NanoLabs to create a genotype of the killer who got away. That file helped detectives establish more about the killer and his characteristics — everything from eye and hair color to skin tone, prosecutors said. It also helped investigators create composite pictures of what the killer would look like as he aged.
A photo of what the killer might look like today was put out to the public in November 2017. But it wasn’t until investigators ran the genotype through public genealogy databases that Rowe’s name came up, according to prosecutors.
Still, he was only a “strong viable suspect.”
That changed after authorities grabbed his discarded water bottle and gum on May 31 as he worked a DJ job at Smoketown Elementary School. The sample was given to a state crime lab, and it was a positive match with DNA from Mirack’s body and the surrounding area of the crime scene, prosecutors said.
“We really cannot give enough credit to Parabon NanoLabs for the work they did which proved absolutely crucial to filing this charge,” Stedman said in a statement.
Authorities said a motive has not yet been established.
“Considering the time that has past, some specific questions about motive might never be answered publicly,” Stedman said. “I can say, in consideration of all the information and evidence — to include the DNA found at the scene — we know that this defendant raped and brutally murdered Christy Mirack.”
The DNA from the crime scene and the DNA from the elementary school are so similar that there’s just a one in 200 octillion chance the genetic material is from a Caucasian person other than Rowe, according to the district attorney.
To put that in perspective, an octillion is a one with 27 zeros after it.
Mirack’s family reacted with mixed emotions — including relief that a suspect has been tracked down.
“It was a bittersweet moment for us,” her brother, Vince Mirack, told Lancaster Online. “Just a whirlwind of emotions. We’re just glad someone was finally arrested.”