2 Women Were Found Dead in the 1980s. DNA Links a Man to the Murders. - The World News

2 Women Were Found Dead in the 1980s. DNA Links a Man to the Murders.

One woman’s body was found in 1986, under a pile of old carpeting in a wooded area near a roadway in Northern Virginia. Another woman’s body was found in 1989, in underbrush off a Virginia interstate, with a large shirt wrapped around her neck.

For more than three decades, the authorities had not been able to determine who was behind the murders, despite many potential leads.

Then, in February, the police got a DNA match. They used genetic genealogy to make an arrest in the 1986 murder and found a link to the killing from 1989, the authorities said.

Elroy Harrison, 65, of Stafford County, Va., was indicted on Monday by a grand jury in the murder of Jacqueline Lard, 40, the victim found in 1986 in Woodbridge, Va., the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday. DNA from Mr. Harrison was also linked to the murder of Amy Baker, 18, the victim found in 1989 in Springfield, Va., the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement.

Mr. Harrison was arrested on Tuesday at his home in Stafford County in Northern Virginia and was charged with murder, abduction, assault and burglary, the police said. He was held without bond at the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Stafford, Va., according to inmate records. His arraignment is scheduled for April 5, according to court records. A lawyer for Mr. Harrison did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Many questions remain about how Mr. Harrison evaded the police for so many years. Before the killings, he was arrested in 1983 for robbing a bank in Virginia, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on June 1 that year.

Mr. Harrison was released from jail on June 30, 1986, according to court records. And after that, no other arrests were reflected in a public records search.

The authorities found Mr. Harrison after detectives with the Fairfax County police submitted evidence from Ms. Baker’s case in 2021 to DNA Labs International, a company based in Deerfield Beach, Fla., that specializes in forensic DNA analysis. The company came up with a DNA profile for a possible suspect that matched an analysis by Parabon NanoLabs, a company in Reston, Va., in Ms. Lard’s case, according to the authorities.

That profile was uploaded to a state database, which revealed a link between Ms. Baker’s death and the homicide investigation of Ms. Lard, according to the Police Department. Based on the DNA profile, the authorities identified a possible last name for the suspect, and they later sought a search warrant for a DNA sample from Mr. Harrison, the authorities said.

Ms. Baker’s mother, Sue Baker, 74, said in an interview on Wednesday that learning about the arrest was “surreal.” She and her husband were surprised that the authorities were able to link the DNA profile of Mr. Harrison to the two unsolved murders.

“We never thought this would happen,” she said.

Amy Baker went missing on March 29, 1989, according to the Fairfax police. After visiting family in Falls Church, Va., she headed home to Stafford County around 8:30 p.m., but around 9:55 p.m., a Virginia state trooper found her vehicle by the side of the road, according to the police.

Her family discovered her body on March 31 in a wooded area near Interstate 95 in Virginia, the police said.

Her mother said the police had determined that Ms. Baker’s vehicle had run out of gas, and that she had walked up the interstate toward a gas station.

“And that’s where she was abducted and taken into the woods and what happened, happened,” she said.

Ms. Baker died of strangulation by ligature, according to her death certificate.

The previous victim, Ms. Lard, died of asphyxiation by ligature, according to her death certificate. Ms. Lard was last seen on Nov. 14, 1986, at a real estate office where she worked in Stafford County, according to the authorities. Her body was discovered two days later by two children, who were playing in a wooded area near a roadway in Woodbridge, Va., the police said.

The Potomac News reported on Nov. 19, 1986, that the police believed Ms. Lard had been abducted from her office, and that she was later beaten and suffocated. She was reported missing on Nov. 15 after her co-workers found “blood, some clothing and signs of struggle” at their office, the newspaper reported.

It was unclear why either woman was targeted. The Associated Press reported in November 1986 that Ms. Lard’s husband, Ronald Lard, was an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, but the authorities found no evidence linking Mr. Lard’s work to his wife’s killing.

Relatives of Ms. Lard did not respond to requests for comment.

Maj. Shawn Kimmitz of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday that his agency “never gave up on this case.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jacqueline’s and Amy’s family and friends and we hope this arrest can bring them some peace,” Major Kimmitz said.

Sue Baker said that she and her family were preparing mentally for what could be a lengthy process in court.

“We want this guy to stay in jail forever,” she said. “I want to see this man suffer like my family has.”

While the arrest was a welcome development for her family, Ms. Baker said she did not feel the ordeal was over.

“There’s no closure when you lose a child,” she said. “Closure to me is like putting a top on a pan. We’re not doing that.”

Kirsten Noyes and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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