Christy Mirack was a 25-year-old 6th grade teacher at a Pennsylvania elementary school when, on December 21, 1992, her last day on earth, she gathered some Christmas presents in her arms for her students, put on her coat and gloves, and headed for the door.
She never made it outside. A killer attacked, strangling and brutally beating the young teacher, whose homicide remained unsolved until June 2018 when authorities announced, at long last, a suspect in the case.
He is Raymond Rowe, a 49-year-old popular wedding and event DJ known professionally around Lancaster, Pennsylvania as “DJ Freez,” authorities said in a news conference, and he’s accused of criminal homicide in Mirack’s death as a result of family DNA matching technology similar to that used in the Golden State Killer case in California. In family DNA, authorities first link a DNA profile to a relative of the suspect – sometimes even a distant relative – and then backtrack through family trees until they narrow it down to one possible perpetrator.
On January 8, 2019, Rowe pleaded guilty to the slaying and apologized for it, removing the death penalty from the equation. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” he told Mirack’s parents.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Christy Mirack Was Ambushed Inside Her Own Home
The death of Christy Mirack, who was a 25-year-old 6th grade teacher at a local elementary school, was brutal and horrifying. District Attorney Craig Stedman, of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, detailed the crime scene in the news conference on June 25, 2018.
Mirack was living with a roommate at the time of her murder and, on December 21, 1992, the roommate left first to go to work. Investigators believe that Christy Mirack was getting ready for work when the killer struck.
She was holding Christmas packages and had her jacket and gloves on, said the DA. However, when she didn’t appear at school that morning, her principal became concerned and went to the home to check on her. It was 9:15 a.m., and he found the door ajar, and then “he went in and saw a shocking scene,” said Stedman. Mirack was lying unresponsive on the floor of the livingroom.
“It became obvious looking at the scene that a struggle had taken place,” the DA says, noting that there were scuffed marks on the floor and the Christmas packages were “strewn about.”
It’s believed the killer sexually assaulted Mirack. Her underwear, pants, and shoes were removed, and the clothing on her torso was pushed up. A wooden cutting board was found near her head. There was blood, and her face was distorted. Mirack “had suffered a brutal beating as well,” Stedman said in the news conference. “She had her jacket on, her gloves on. She was assaulted almost instantly at the doorway.”
It appeared that she had fought for her life, but she suffered blunt trauma to her neck, back, upper chest, and her jaw was fractured. The cause of death was strangulation. Horrifically, the coroner was able to find DNA from sperm on multiple areas of her body and in a section of the carpet directly under where her body was found.
Authorities developed a DNA profile of the suspect, and they put it in the database for offenders. There was not a match, and the years passed by. Eventually, authorities had run out of leads, when they heard about a new approach to crime solving involving genetic DNA testing on samples voluntarily submitted by people around the country, sometimes called “family DNA.”
Authorities had previously developed a drawing of the suspect via DNA profiling.
2. Authorities Say They Used Chewing Gum & a Water Bottle to Solve the Case
Authorities had the DNA of the killer, but no match. However, then, in 2016, while at a seminar, they became aware of a company called Parabon NanoLabs, Stedman said.
They submitted a DNA profile from the carpet. “We didn’t have any more leads. We didn’t have any suspects,” said Stedman in the news conference. “Parabon was the last shot, and turned out to be our best. We didn’t feel like we had any more arrows in the quiver.”
The DA pointed out that, although the process has been used in other cases throughout the country, it had not been used to solve a homicide in Pennsylvania yet.
Authorities contracted with Parabon. Parabon’s CEO Dr. Steven Armentrout was also at the press conference on the Mirack case arrest. “Together we worked efficiently and effectively,” he said. “It’s a model I hope we can use across the country.”
He pointed out that critics have raised concerns about the process, especially since the higher-profile Golden State Killer arrest, but he believes those concerns are based on misconceptions. He said that Parabon used a database called GEDmatch that is publicly available. “People proactively upload their DNA files to this,” he said of the site, which many people use to research their own ancestry and find relatives. “The site is specifically designed to find genetic relatives.” GEDmatch’s database was also instrumental in the Golden State Killer case.
Armentrout said he had uploaded his own DNA to the site, and that he would be fine with it if law enforcement used his profile to “implicate even my closest relatives if their DNA is found at a crime scene.”
Authorities uploaded the Mirack suspect DNA to the site, and set the file to private. They say that GEDmatch shows the amount of shared DNA between two people and allowed Parabon to find distant cousins of the suspect, build family trees, and then suggest a suspect’s name to law enforcement.
The lab often works with second and third cousin matches, said CeCe Moore, who works for Parabon. Authorities have not said which relative’s DNA matched Rowe’s. “We provide a highly scientific tip” to law enforcement, said Moore. She said that the lab “analyzed family trees of those who share DNA with him. We triangulated between these family trees and used genetic information to identify a possible suspect. This is not magic. It is science.”
The district attorney said that Rowe had lived only a few miles from where the victim lived at that time. “We had no connection to the defendant from our files,” he said.
It didn’t stop there. Authorities don’t make an arrest based on Parabon’s findings. It’s just a tip. They staked out Raymond Rowe, who was known as DJ Freez, and who was performing at an elementary school function.
On May 31, 2018, authorities observed him with a water bottle and chewing gum and obtained them when he abandoned the items, the DA said, adding that the DNA from those items matched the semen sample on the carpet and Mirack’s body, in some cases by odds of 1 in 200 octillion (that’s a thousand trillion trillions, a number with 27 zeroes behind it, according to the district attorney.)
“This killer was at liberty from this brutal crime for longer than Christine Mirack was on this earth alive and they steered us in the path of holding him finally accountable,” said the DA.
3. Rowe, the Suspect, Got His Start as a DJ by Working as a Break Dancer & Winning Local DJ Battles
Raymond Rowe owns a company called Freez Entertainment, LLC, where he is known as DJ Freez. The website labels the company as “an AWARD WINNING DJ Company that provides music entertainment for any occassion (sic). Along with Professional Emcee Services we are also detail oriented when it comes to your event’s timeline.”
According to his website bio, DJ Freez AKA Raymond Rowe “started as a break dancer in the early 80’s then started DJing shortly after and soon became a popular house party DJ in the mid 80’s. After winning some local DJ battles he landed a small club appearance in the early 90’s.”
After winning those battles, he became a resident in Pennsylvania at the famous Chameleon Club for 15 years, the bio says. “While at the Chameleon Club his Friday night dance party with 600-800 guests each week, became the First Dance Party in the Central PA area to be broadcasted live on Clear Channel’s WLAN FM97 (Club 969),” according to the bio.
“He then started Freez Entertainment (a party promotion company) booking such groups as: The Sugarhill Gang, the Cover Girls, The X-Ecutioners, DJ Craze, Lil Suzy, The Rock Steady Crew and many more.”
His Facebook and Twitter pages have now been deleted.
Many people in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area probably had contact with Rowe through his work as a DJ because he expanded his repertoire to include weddings and other events.
DJ Freez then “added weddings and parties to his resume as he started doing weddings, holiday parties and events,” his website says.
In 1996, DJ Freez “took on a 3 Month Club residence in Chile, South America. He worked the club life 6 nights a week in the tourist area of Pucon, Chile,” the site says.
“Upon returning to the States In 1997 he opened up a DJ Pro Retail Store ‘The 12 Spot’ selling DJ equipment, records, CDS and clothing. Then he launched his DJ school based out of the retail store. The School taught upcoming DJ’s how to time music, mix, scratch and break beats. More than 2 dozen central PA DJ’s have gotten their start from DJ Freez.”
He has performed in New York for a top music company, his bio claims.
“From there he landed his first NYC gig with Atomik design for the Sony Music Christmas Party in 2002. After the Sony party Freez worked venues in NYC such as Capital & Madison Square Garden doing preshow and after show parties for the TBS/TNT Network. These events included artist and events such as Sting, The Eagles, Lenny Kravitz, The Youth Aids Benefit and many others,” said the website biography, adding that he has “also done events with or for Paris Hilton, Brooke Hogan & ‘reggae legend’ Beenie Man.”
Among the top companies he has worked as a DJ for, the website lists Skechers Shoes, Ann Taylor Loft, The Museum of Art, and Park City Mall.
“DJ Freez is currently a Remix DJ and Mobile DJ who has a mix show position with Clear Channel’s WHKF 99.3 Kiss FM Every Friday at 5PM,” the website claims. “DJ Freez currently does about 150 parties & events a year spinning all styles of music.”
His website proclaims that there “are many DJ’s who follow in the footsteps left by DJ Freez, however there is only one recognized leader in the Central PA area.”
Rowe has performed at weddings in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. He performed at many clubs throughout Pennsylvania and at various concerts and promotions.
His website also lists a number of schools he’s appeared at, including: McCaskey High School Proms & Homecoming; Conestoga Valley High School Prom; Lancaster Catholic High School Prom; Penn Manor High School Prom; Lancaster Country Day High School Prom; Cocalico High School Prom; Reynolds Middle School Dances & Graduation; Manheim Central Middle School Dances; Lititz Elementary School Faculty Party; Stevens College Various Events; F&M Freshman Orientation; Solanco HS Proms & Dances Lower Dauphin HS; Garden Spot HS; Manheim Township.
You can see some of his music here.
4. Mirack’s Brother Called the Arrest ‘Bittersweet’
Mirack’s mother has passed away, said the DA, but her brother Vince released a statement requesting privacy for her family and saying, “It is a bittersweet day for me and my family. Nothing can change the loss of my sister Christy. But we can move forward in the right direction,” Stedman said.
Stedman reiterated that Rowe was not a suspect at the time of the homicide, and he did not answer whether authorities believe that Christy knew him or what the motive was for the offense. They both lived in the same city at the time, for a year and nine months, the prosecutor said, although “not like next door.” Specifically, their homes were four miles apart.
Rowe was already a DJ, and his job took him to “different areas that a lot of young people would frequent,” Stedman said. He was arrested at his home without incident.
Raymond Rowe, 49, whose website claims has performed with top celebrities and companies, was accused of criminal homicide and is being held without bail. It could be a death penalty case, prosecutors said at a news conference on June 25, 2018, in which they announced Rowe’s arrest.
Before the arrest, Christy’s brother told Lancaster Online that the family would never stop seeking justice. “It’s hard,” he said to the newspaper. “And it only gets harder, to be honest with you.”
5. Christy’s ‘Joy in Life’ Was Education
Christy’s brother previously told Lancaster Online, “She was a very outgoing person, and the joy in her life was education.” Her mother, who died of cancer, spoke to Lancaster Online years ago about her grief, saying, through tears, “Who? Who and why?”
Wrote one man on Facebook, “She was a really nice teacher. I didn’t have her in class but know many who did and I’m sure the family and her friends can breathe an sigh of relief that justice was finally served.”
Another woman wrote, “I promised my two boys they’d find who did this to their teacher but I had no idea it’d be 25 years later. No thankful for your family. I want to attend trial. It’s a pledge I made 25 years ago.”
According to Lancaster Online, the presents Christy was carrying for her students each contained a children’s book called “Miracles on Maple Hill,” and she wrote inside each, “Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a great 1993! Love, Miss Mirack.”