A Pennsylvania DJ pleaded guilty Tuesday to the 1992 rape and murder of a schoolteacher, linked to the crime decades after the fact because of DNA his half-sister submitted to a genealogy database.
The accused, Raymond Charles Rowe, 50, was sentenced to life without parole in the case.
Rowe was charged in June with killing 25-year-old elementary schoolteacher Christy Mirack in her Lancaster apartment, just four days before Christmas 27 years ago.
According to investigators, Mirack was getting ready to leave her home to distribute gifts to her students and co-workers when Rowe forced his way in.
Prosecutors say she was badly beaten by a wooden cutting board found near her body. She had a broken jaw; an autopsy report revealed wounds on her neck, back, chest and face. The young teacher also appeared to have been strangled using her own sweater.
Mirack was discovered by her school’s principal, who went to check on her after she hadn’t shown up for work and wasn’t answering phone calls.
Investigators struggled for years to find Mirack’s killer but they caught a lucky break last year.
Using a publicly available genealogical database, authorities found that DNA recovered from the carpet in the victim’s home matched that of the then-unknown suspect’s half-sister, leading them to Rowe, who had lived four miles from where the killing occurred
Undercover detectives obtained DNA from Rowe by collecting his used water bottle and chewing gum at a school where he was DJing last year. It matched DNA recovered from the carpet samples.
"If not for the grace of modern technology and divine intervention, you probably would have stayed in Lancaster and basked in your fame," the teacher's brother, Vince Mirack, told the defendant during Tuesday’s hearing.
"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," he continued.
Rowe, known professionally as DJ Freez, likely passed Mirack’s home on his way to work at the time of the murder. Prosecutors say they aren’t sure if the two knew each other or why she was targeted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.