Husband of murder victim says suspect’s arrest does ‘resurrect loss and grief’

The husband of the Virginia woman killed by a Niskayuna resident nearly 30 years ago told The Washington Post on Monday that he was “flabbergasted” by the news that the man had confessed to police last week.

Stephan Smerk, 51, admitted to police that he killed 37-year-old Robin Lawrence at random in her home in West Springfield, Virginia on Nov. 20, 1994.

Lawrence was a graphic designer who worked as director of promotion and merchandising at Merchant’s Tire and Auto Center in Manassas. She was a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts. She and Ollie Lawrence married in 1989 and had a daughter Nicole, according to The Post.

Ollie Lawrence was out of the country on business during the time of the murder. His wife went to work on Friday and came home and Lawrence called her at about 6:30 p.m. but got no answer. After getting no answer on Saturday, he had somebody check on the house.

“That family friend discovered this heinous and tragic scene,” said Lt. Col. Eli Cory, deputy chief for investigations for the Fairfax County Police Department, at a news conference on Monday.

Ollie Lawrence told The Post that the 2-year-old was found with soiled diapers and there was blood at the scene. She had been stabbed repeatedly. There was no sign of forced entry or sexual assault.

Police initially considered Ollie Lawrence a suspect even though he was in the Bahamas that weekend. He was USAir’s vice president for human resources at the time.

“I was always disappointed in the detectives because they seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time as me as a suspect. I recognize and respect the fact they needed to rule me out. But I was out of the country and could prove it,” Lawrence told the newspaper. “It didn’t impact me much because I knew I didn’t do it. But I was seriously concerned they were focusing on the wrong person in the case.”

Lawrence, who remarried 12 years ago and now is retired in the south of France, said news of the arrest does “resurrect the loss and grief.”