A Pennsylvania wedding DJ has pleaded guilty to raping and strangling an elementary school teacher 26 years ago in a case that pivoted on DNA submitted by a relative to a genealogy database.
Raymond Rowe, aka DJ Freez, entered guilty pleas Tuesday to charges including first-degree murder, rape and burglary. His plea deal eliminated the death penalty as punishment. He was sentenced to life in prison, plus 60 to 120 years.
Just days before Christmas in 1992, 25-year-old Christy Mirack had on her coat and gloves and was gathering up wrapped holiday presents for her students and fellow teachers when Rowe burst into her East Lampeter Township apartment, prosecutors said.
Mirack was badly beaten. Her jaw was broken and she was strangled with her own sweater, police said. A wooden cutting board found nearby was likely used to beat her, according to investigators, and the presents she had been carrying were strewn around her living room.
She fought her attacker, prosecutors said, but could not overcome his strength. She was also raped repeatedly, authorities said.
Her murder remained unsolved for more years than she was alive. In June, Rowe was arrested after a half-sister looking for possible relatives submitted DNA to a genealogy website.
Investigators tapped into that site and compared crime scene evidence to DNA on the website. They got a hit and Rowe's half-sister led detectives to Rowe, who had lived about four miles from Mirack.
He was put under surveillance. Detectives seized a water bottle and chewing gum Rowe left behind after appearing as a DJ at a local school. Both matched DNA found in Mirack's carpet.
"If not for the grace of modern technology and divine intervention, you probably would have stayed in Lancaster and basked in your fame," Mirack's brother, Vince, told Rowe during Tuesday's hearing.
The Golden State Killer suspect in California was also apprehended using an online genealogy site.
"I can only hope that the remainder of your life is as painful to you as the last 26 years have been to my family," said Vince Mirack.
Prosecutors said it was unclear whether the teacher and her killer knew each other, though Mirack had visited a nightclub where Rowe was working as a DJ. Investigators were unable to establish a motive for the attack.
Mirack's body was found by her principal, who went to check on her when she failed to show up for class and didn't answer her phone.
She had taught sixth grade.