Feb. 16, 2021

Solving the Murder of Christy Mirack

Solving the Murder of Christy Mirack

Christy Mirack was violently murdered in 1992 as she was getting ready for work. But who would kill the beloved 25-year-old school teacher? No one knew the answer for over 25 years. Then genetic genealogy stepped in.

photo from ABC News


Christy Mirack was violently murdered in 1992 as she was getting ready for work. But who would kill the beloved 25-year-old school teacher? No one knew the answer for over 25 years. Then genetic genealogy stepped in.

Transcript

Hey, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Kudzu Killers: Homicide and Sweet Tea. It’s so freaking cold here right now, I can’t believe it. Supposed to be -1 tonight. Are you kidding me? That’s just not right here in Texas, but we’ll bundle up under our blankets and turn on the fireplace and try to make the best of it. Just got a bunch of hot chocolate, a bag of marshmallows, and I’m not afraid to use ’em.

How’s the weather down by you, Lark?

Well, today I’m going to talk about the tragic rape and murder of a very popular elementary school teacher, 25 year old Christy Mirack. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this one or not, Lark, but I caught an older episode of 20/20 a while back, thank you Hulu, and it was just such a heartbreaking story I ended up doing a bit of research on it, and decided I’d like to cover it here.

This story took place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Amish country, where outside of town there are beautiful farmlands and rolling hills dotted with trees. Have you ever been there, Lark? Less than 60,000 residents, and about an hour and a half west of Philadelphia. You’d think it’d be fairly safe there, since it’s kinda small and a pretty good distance away from a big city. It’s ranked 25 in safest towns to live in in Pennsylvania. But you have a 1 in 31 chance of being the victim of a crime there, which is higher than 95% of the rest of the state. Kinda burst my bubble there when I saw that statistic. I’m thinking bucolic, kinda sleepy place, but I guess it’s not really. I mean, it’s not Detroit or Memphis, but…

They did have one well-known crime back in 2006, where a gunman went into a one room Amish school there and shot 10 children, killing 6 of them. I don’t know if you recall that. It was called the West Nickel Mines School Shooting.

But before that happened, there was a shocking murder there of a young elementary school teacher by the name of Christy Mirack.

Christy was born and raised in the coal mining town of Shamokin, situated in central Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia, population of about 7,000. So very small town. She was a go-getter, if she decided to do something, she accomplished it. And what she wanted to do was teach.

After graduating from Millersville University, she took a position as a teacher at Rohrerstown Elementary School in Lancaster. According to those who knew her, former students, co-workers and the principal of the school, she was passionate about her job, and about the kids, and she was a favorite among the kids and the faculty alike. She took her job seriously.

So when she didn’t show up for work on December 21, 1992, Rohrerstown Elementary principal, Harry Goodman knew something was wrong. He tried calling her several times, called her mother to see if she knew where Christy might be. He told her mom he was going to go to her home and check on her, and it’d probably just be a flat tire and he’d change it for her.

But when he arrived at Christy’s apartment, he noticed her front door was slightly open. It was then he knew something bad had happened. He went inside her apartment and found her on her living room floor, badly beaten, and he went to a neighbor’s house and called 911. She’d been bashed in the head and face, raped, and strangled with a sweater.

It was 9:22 a.m. when Mr. Goodman called 911, so a couple hours since her roommate left. When police arrived, they saw Christy was definitely dead, with severe blunt force trauma to her head. Her pants and underwear had been ripped off her body, and her shirt and jacket pushed upwards, according to court document. A wooden cutting board, the weapon used in the beating, was laying next to her head.

Christmas packages she’d been wrapping were all over the place, telling the detectives a big struggle had happened. In addition to semen, there was blood, and not all of it belonged to Christy. She’d put up a pretty good fight, one that she couldn’t win.

The previous night, Christy had been wrapping presents for her 6th grade students. She’d bought them each a copy of a book, Miracles on Maple Hill, and planned on giving them the gift before Christmas break started and she headed home to Shamoken to be with her family.

Her roommate said when she’d left for work at 7 am, Mirack was getting ready, and usually left around 7:30 or 7:45. Two people walking nearby reported hearing a high-pitched scream between 7:10 and 7:20. 

According to the autopsy, there was severe blunt force trauma to Mirack’s neck, back, upper chest and face; her jaw was fractured, and she had been strangled; sexually assaulted. Her death was ruled homicide by strangulation.

The thing is, Christy was very safety conscious. She knew she was living in a city that could kinda be unsafe sometimes, so she was careful about keeping everything locked up, home or not. There were no signs of forced entry, so that left detectives feeling there was one of two scenarios. Either she knew the person at the door, or she was surprised by the killer as she was leaving home to head for school.

Of course Mr. Goodman was considered suspect, since he found the body. That’s pretty common in a case like this where police were looking at all suspects, but he was quickly cleared. They also had a suspect in a former boyfriend, a man 20 years older and married, who had shown up at the school the day of her murder asking to see her, which was kinda weird. Then he also asked the assistant superintendent if he could attend the grief counseling the school was offering for teacher and students, to which he was told, uh, no. But he was also cleared after DNA testing showed he didn’t match the semen found on Christy and the carpet beneath her body.

Dozens of people were brought in for questioning, but were dismissed as suspects in one way or another. Part of the problem was that Christy was intensely private about her personal life. So nobody knew if she was dating anyone, or if they knew they didn’t know who it was, so there was no one to look for. DNA was submitted to the national database with no hits. Remember, this is 1993 at this point, so the database isn’t what it is now, and the killer wouldn’t be in there unless he’d been in prison for some sort of sexual crime, most likely, so…

By New Year’s day, 1993, there were witnesses who said they saw a white man, muscular, driving a white car. Maybe a 1993 Dodge Shadow, or a 1990 Dodge Daytona, or maybe a Toyota, perhaps a Celica. In May, at this point 6 months after the murder, a woman said she saw a white guy, stocky, with long stringy brown hair and deep set eyes. She even described what he was wearing: a faded shirt black, white and blue shirt, and blue-jeans. The police did a sketch according to her description and released it to the public.

By July, the police updated the description of the car. They now said it was a 1987-1991 faded silver Dodge Daytona hatchback with black louvers on the back window. They were sure Christy knew her killer, they just needed to find out who it was.

Over the next couple of years, they’d interviewed nearly 1500 people, and eliminated over 60 men using DNA testing. The case went cold.

Then, a decade later, the Chandra Levy case happened. Remember her? A Washington DC intern for Representative Gary Condit, who disappeared and her skeletal remains were never found? Well, the Lancaster Sunday News, the local newspaper, received a call. The guy wouldn’t say his name, but he said he and some friends had been talking about the Levy case the previous night, and he had a story for them.

He said they should do a story about promiscuous women who lived a double life. Then he tossed out Christy’s name. He said he knew her brother, Vince, and that he knew there was a barn on the family’s property where Christy took men to have sex with them. He basically called her a whore and didn’t really say it, but sort of inferred they should expect something like this to happen to them.

But the Miracks didn’t have a barn on their property, so the call was basically a load of manure, someone just wanting to make Christy look bad, maybe figuring the reporter wouldn’t check out the information or something. The FBI couldn’t identify who called or where the call came from.

We’re gonna take a little break here for our sponsors, and when we get back, the 14 year wait for a suspect, and the genetic genealogist who helped track down a killer.

Break

Welcome back. We’re talking about the murder of 25 year-old Christy Mirack in Lancaster Pennsylvania in 1992.

So, another 14 years later, the DNA samples were sent to a place called Parabon Laboratories. The labs extracted the DNA from the semen found at the scene, and—now, I find this really incredible—Parabon used the genetic information to put together a composite sketch of a possible suspect, and the police released that to the public.

In addition to this, they brought in a geneologist. CeeCee Moore is making a huge name for herself as a forensic genealogist. She’s worked on a number of big cases in the last few years. As I understand it, which may or may not be 100% right, once DNA analysis labs like Parabon make a match in ancestral DNA, she traces the family tree back to a single individual or family. From there, the labs can match the suspect to the crime.

So, after checking the ancestry database, they discovered a match with a woman who had her DNA tested. Further digging by Ms. Moore showed the prime suspect to be the woman’s half-brother. I believe I read that in one newspaper article, but I couldn’t double check the source because it’s now been blocked unless I subscribe, but I think she didn’t know she had a half-brother. Anyway, Ms. Moore tracked down a suspect by the name of Raymond Rowe.

Rowe was a noted DJ in the area, playing at night clubs and made the rounds at school dances and weddings and such. He called himself DJ Freez. He and Christy had no known relationship—possibly she went to a night club when he was DJ—but it’s believed he worked at an office down the street from her townhouse, and most likely drove by it every day. Maybe he saw her? Maybe he watched her and knew her patterns, with her roommate leaving earlier and her being alone for 45 minutes. At the time he had a white Toyota, with louvers on the back window, just like some of the witnesses described.

Rowe was engaged at the time. His fiancée, and later his wife, Monica Whalen—they’re not married anymore—never suspected a thing. In an interview with NBC’s Dateline, she told how he came home the night of the murder, how they spent Christmas together 4 days later, and how he brought up the murder of Christy and warned his fiancée to be careful because there was a killer on the loose.

DJ Freez is an appropriate name. He was ice cold, warning his fiancée to be careful when he knew all along he was the murderer.

So they had Christy’s murderer in their sights, but they didn’t really have any evidence. They didn’t feel they could just walk up and ask him for a DNA sample, so they watched and waited, and finally they were able to collect a piece of chewing gum, and a water bottle he’d used. They sent the items to the lab, where they were able to extract the DNA from those items and run them against the DNA samples from the semen found at the crime scene.

The samples were a match, and in June 2018, police arrested Raymond Charles Rowe for the murder of Christy Mirack. In order to avoid the death penalty, in January of 2019, he confessed to the killing. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus 60-120 years.

Christy’s mother never lived to see her daughter’s murderer brought to justice. She died of cancer in 2002, just 10 years after Christy’s death.

Christy’s brother made a statement at the sentencing “I’ve searched for who could do such a horrific thing…Who could do something so heinous to another person and walk away with no regret,” he said. “Now I know who.”

“You took away our joy, our security, our love of the Christmas holiday…But most of all you took away our Christy,” Vince Mirack added. “We struggle every day to get past the pain.”

His regret, he said, is that his mother didn’t live long enough to see the man he described as a self-serving evil fraud brought to justice.

“I can only hope the rest of your life is as painful for you as the last 26 years have been for my family,” Vince Mirack said.

This murder, as I said earlier, was solved by something that’s new in the last few years, called genetic genealogy, and as I said, CeeCee Moore is a pioneer in the field. I’ll have more about her work at a later time.

Genetic genealogy has been used to solve several cold cases, including the Golden State Killer in California. This isn’t technology so much as really, really good puzzle solving. But can you believe there are people out there who don’t want police to be able to use this?

A legislator in Maryland, Delegate Charles Sydnor of Baltimore, proposed a bill to prohibit police from using genetic genealogy to solve crimes. He claims it’s a matter of privacy. My feeling is, if you didn’t kill anybody, you don’t have anything to worry about.

What do y’all think? Should they be able to use genetic genealogy to solve these crimes? Leave us a message on our website, you can send us a voicemail at www.kudzukillers.com, just click on the little blue mic in the lower right corner, or you can comment on the story link on our webpage.

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to listen to our paranormal podcast, Two Chicks and a Crucifix, every Monday, and our Kudzu Killer’s Forensic Fridays. We’ll be watching for your voicemails and comments!

Sources:

https://lancaster.crimewatchpa.com/da/11617/post/%E2%80%98he-did-it%E2%80%99-raymond-rowe-years-well-known-dj-admits-killing-christy-mirack-1992

https://medium.com/the-true-crime-times/lancasters-holiday-horror-the-murder-of-christy-mirack-5e653628e69

https://people.com/crime/christy-mirack-case-ramond-rowe-fiancee-speaks-out/

https://lancaster.crimewatchpa.com/da/11617/post/%E2%80%98he-did-it%E2%80%99-raymond-rowe-years-well-known-dj-admits-killing-christy-mirack-1992

https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/01/absolute-remorseless-horror-murdered-teachers-brother-rages-against-homicidal-dj-raymond-rowe.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/dj-murder-solved-dna-evidence-sister-raymond-rowe-christy-mirack-lancaster-pennsylvania-a8721051.html

https://lancasteronline.com/news/local/raymond-dj-freez-rowe-pleads-guilty-to-1992-rape-slaying-of-teacher-christy-mirack/article_a0b409e8-12d9-11e9-99fb-57dbbd0efb0c.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CeCe_Moore

https://youtu.be/I2Kl-5WlYKU

https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-maryland-house-bill-dna-databases-0221-story.html