VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – More than two decades after the body of a 17-year-old woman was found wrapped in a sleeping bag in a dumpster in Virginia Beach, cold-case detectives thought they found her killer. But a jury disagreed on Monday, clearing the man of murder.
Local media reported that Robert Malick of Erie, Pennsylvania, was acquitted of second-degree murder after several hours of deliberation.
Malick was charged in 2014 after Virginia Beach police announced that cold-case detectives had uncovered fingerprint evidence linking him to the death of Joan Schoppaul.
Malick, who was in the Navy and living near the teen at the time, told investigators that he had sex with Schoppaul the night before her body was found, but was not involved in her murder.
Malick's attorneys argued during trial that the young woman was killed by another man, Larry Outten, who died in 1996. William Outten testified that his brother confessed to the killing before his death, and Outten's son testified that he recognized the sleeping bag as one his father had used.
Karen Malick said she never doubted her husband's innocence.
"I knew who my husband was," she told The Virginian-Pilot. "Just watching him with our children."
Schoppaul's parents declined to speak to reporters Monday after watching the verdict.