NISKAYUNA – A Niskayuna man has been arrested in connection with a cold case murder out of Virginia, accused of stabbing someone to death there in 1994, police said Monday.
Stephen Smerk, 51, of Niskayuna, walked into the Niskayuna Police Department to turn himself in – shortly after police from Virginia spoke with him locally, police said.
Detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department had been in the area after DNA from the 1994 murder, put through a familial DNA search, identified Smerk as a suspect.
Smerk, then 22, is now accused in the Nov. 20, 1994, stabbing death of 37-year-old Robin Lawrence, police said. Lawrence was found stabbed to death inside her home in Springfield, Va. The city is about 10 miles south of Washington, D.C.
It was unclear Monday afternoon how long Smerk had been in Niskayuna, but police in both jurisdictions listed him Monday as a Niskayuna resident.
Police in Virginia indicated that detectives recovered the DNA, but at the time found no match.
Detectives from the department’s Cold Case Unit then continued to review their evidence. Then, more recently, they found a familial match. They then determined Smerk had been working in the Virginia area at the time of the Virginia murder.
Police there also obtained photos of Smerk from 1988 and 1998 and compared those to a digital composite image created by Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company in Northern Virginia that specializes in DNA phenotyping and genetic genealogy analysis: processes that predict physical appearance and biological relationships from unidentified DNA evidence, police in Virginia said.
The Virginia detectives then traveled to Niskayuna and spoke with Smerk, according to Niskayuna police.
No arrest was made then, but Smerk soon walked into the Niskayuna Police Department, at 5:19 p.m. Thursday, and told police there he wanted to turn himself in on a cold case from Virginia.
Niskayuna Police soon learned that two Fairfax County Police Department detectives had been in the area earlier speaking with Smerk. Those detectives then arrived shortly after to interview Smerk.
The interview complete, Niskayuna Police arrested Smerk as a fugitive from justice related to the Virginia murder. He was processed and sent for arraignment. He is awaiting extradition.
Fairfax County Police indicated they obtained a confession from Smerk to the murder. They then got a warrant for second-degree murder and Smerk was arrested.
“Our cold case detectives exhibit unparalleled dedication when it comes to closing a case with many unknowns,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said in a statement. “This case is but one example of how our department’s police work goes above and beyond, and it exemplifies our commitment to delivering justice regardless of the timeline.”