Virginia man tied to unsolved killings of 2 women in the 1980s

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Nearly 40 years later, authorities in Virginia have linked a man to the separate killings of two women in the 1980s.

A county grand jury Monday indicted Elroy Harrison, 65, on a charge of first-degree murder in the 1986 killing of Jacqueline Lard, 32, the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Authorities will also seek to charge him in the 1989 slaying of Amy Baker, 18.

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Jacqueline Lard.Stafford County Sheriff’s Office

Investigators said they used genetic genealogy to link Harrison to both murders. The technique allows investigators to compare DNA samples against public genealogy databases, narrowing suspect lists to small geographic areas, families or individuals.

Repeated searches of the Virginia and national DNA databases had failed to identify Lard’s killer, the sheriff’s office said. Investigators then turned to genetic genealogy, which in December helped them establish a family name for the suspect in her death.

Detectives then got a search warrant for Harrison’s DNA, which was a match in Lard’s slaying, the sheriff’s office said.

Lard was last seen alive the night of Nov. 14, 1986, as the realty office she worked at closed. The next day, workers discovered a crime scene at the office that “indicated a horrific struggle,” the sheriff’s office said.

Stafford County detectives, with the help of Virginia State Police and the FBI, collected blood and other evidence, the sheriff’s office said.

Two youths found Lard’s body Nov. 16 in a wooded area beneath a pile of discarded carpeting, the sheriff’s office said. The evidence collected at the scene would help them identity a suspect 37 years later, authorities said.

Baker was last seen alive on March 29, 1989, in nearby Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement.

She had started driving back home that night after having visited family in Falls Church, police said. The same night, a state police trooper found Baker’s unoccupied vehicle on the roadside, Fairfax County police said.

The next morning, thinking it had been abandoned, the trooper had the vehicle towed.

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Amy Baker.Fairfax County Police Department

Baker’s family reported her missing after she failed to return home, and upon learning that her car had been towed, they went to the area where it was found and discovered her body in a wooded area next to an exit ramp, Fairfax County police said.

Detectives determined that she had run out of gas and gotten out of the car to try to get help at the nearest gas station. After that, she encountered the suspect, who strangled her, Fairfax County police said.

Fairfax County cold case detectives are working alongside the county commonwealth attorney’s office to seek charges against Harrison, the sheriff’s office in Stafford County said.

Harrison was arrested Tuesday and was being held without bond at the Rappahannock Regional Jail, the sheriff’s office said. A lawyer listed for Harrison in court records could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday night.

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