LANCASTER, Pa. — Note: The video is from January 8, 2019.
The former Lancaster DJ in prison for the murder of Christy Mirack in 1992 had a Post-Conviction DNA Testing petition denied by a Lancaster County judge, prosecutors in the case announced Thursday.
Raymond Rowe, also known as DJ Freez, pleaded guilty in 2019 to criminal homicide, three counts of rape by forcible compulsion, and two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in connection to the cold-case murder of Mirack, who was found dead in her Lancaster-area townhome on Dec. 21, 1992.
More than 25 years went by before investigators used emerging DNA technology and genetic genealogy advancements to lead them to Rowe, who was arrested and charged with Mirack's murder in 2018.
After pleading guilty in 2019, Rowe was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, plus an addition 60 to 120 years.
But Rowe eventually withdrew his guilty plea, and his defense team filed a PCRA seeking post-conviction DNA Testing on November 21, 2020, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office.
Hearings on the petition were held in Lancaster County Court on August 26, September 2, and September 8 of 2021.
Rowe requested post-conviction DNA testing of five additional items from the crime scene, with the hope of using the results within a PCRA petition to establish new fact of the case and prove his innocence.
These items were:
- A cutting board found near Mirack’s head
- A toaster that is known to have been on top of the cutting board
- A pair of pants found next to Mirack
- Mirack’s sweater
- Mirack’s undershirt
Lancaster County Judge Dennis E. Reinaker presided over the hearings, and denied the petition through an opinion that stated Rowe failed to meet the first requirement of the Post-Conviction DNA Testing statute, which requires that the testing requested was not performed because (a) the technology was not available or (b) counsel requested funds for testing and that request was denied.
Reinaker further found that Rowe failed to demonstrate a reasonable possibility that favorable results of the requested DNA testing would establish his innocence, according to the DA's Office.
Reinaker’s opinion states that the items that are now sought to be tested could have been tested prior to Rowe’s guilty plea in 2019, but were not.
Testimony from DNA experts was clear that the touch DNA testing requested by Rowe was available and could have been performed prior to his guilty plea, and that the relatively new next-generation DNA sequencing procedure is only scarcely used and would not have been utilized in this case, prosecutors said.
As to Rowe’s claim of actual innocence, Reinaker’s opinion mentions the crime scene, the condition of Mirack’s body and her townhome, Rowe’s changing version of events, including his statement during an interview with defense investigators following his arrest in 2018 that he “snapped," and his statements during the guilty plea as some of the factors supporting his determination that Rowe has not established actual innocence.
“In sum, the evidence presented by the Commonwealth, the Petitioner’s own words of placing himself with Ms. Mirack the morning of the murder, and the DNA he left behind established that the Petitioner has not established a prima facie case of actual innocence and this failure would not be undermined by the potential that DNA could be found on the items surrounding Ms. Mirack at the murder scene,” Reinaker stated in his opinion.
“Obviously we think this is the correct legal decision and hope it provides some measure of relief for the family, but this is likely just the beginning of what can be a lengthy appellate process,” District Attorney Heather Adams stated.
None of the items will be tested and Rowe remains in prison. He has 30 days to appeal Reinaker’s ruling to the Superior Court.