SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A Niskayuna man was arraigned on Tuesday facing extradition to Virginia for a murder case that dates back to 1994. Virginia’s Fairfax County Police Department was advised that Stephan Smerk waived his right to an extradition hearing.
The 30 year old cold case arrest was described as “justice finally being served” by Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis on Monday at a press conference.
“Doggedness is a powerful trait our cold case detectives have that trait in spades. I thank them for their diligence and it’s because of their diligence, it’s because of their doggedness, that we are here today making this important announcement,” said Davis.
Smerk is being held without bail while the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office awaits the arrival of his handlers from Virginia.
Investigator John Madden, with the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, says he’s been in communication with the Fairfax Police Department and says they are looking to get him as soon as possible.
Nearly 30 years ago Fairfax detectives investigated the gruesome murder of 37 year old Robin Lawrence. She was stabbed, multiple times, to death while she was home with her young daughter.
DNA evidence was collected at the scene and uploaded to a federal database at that time, Davis said. In 2019, cold case detectives resubmitted his DNA and developed a profile with improved technology from Parabon. They searched genealogical databases and worked on his family tree for three years, which led them to the Capital District.
Two Virginia detectives took a trip to his home in Niskayuna looking to advance their investigation. When they arrived he happened to be taking out his trash, Davis said, that’s when the detectives engaged in conversation and he agreed to submit a DNA swab.
“I think that’s highly unusual so that was a clue to our detectives that something was afoot,” said Davis.
When the detectives got back to their hotel they received a call from Smerk and advised him to turn himself into the Niskayuna Police Department.
“He talked about killing Robin, and he talked a little bit about some more details that I won’t go into but it was a full confession,” said Davis.
Fairfax County Deputy Police Chief Eli Cory said Smerk is wanted in Virginia on second degree murder charges.
“This was really a randomly selected act. There was no connection between the two of them,” said Cory. “He’s in custody in New York and we’re awaiting extradition for him.”
Smirk has a control date set for September 29, a non-appearance hearing on the status of his extradition.
“No matter how far we have to go, how much work we have to do, or how long it takes, the Fairfax County Police Department is going to bring those responsible for a crime to justice.”said Cory.
Davis said there’s no reason to believe Smerk is connected to other crimes in Virginia or New York but they do anticipate they will get phone calls with additional information that may link him
to other crimes.
Smerk had no criminal history prior to the arrest last week. He was most recently working as a software engineer. At the time of the murder he was working for the army out of Fort Myer.
Fairfax County plans on prosecuting him once he’s extradited, but that could still leave him open to prosecution by the military, Davis said.
“That doesn’t mean we shut the door on anything the U.S. Army can hold him accountable as well,” said Davis.