As Sheriff for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the citizens of Loudoun County and specifically, on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the parents of Erica Heather Smith who was murdered 12-years-ago, I want to confirm that our investigation has linked a subject to the murder of their daughter. She was 14-years-old at the time of her murder. For unknown reasons, the suspect linked to the murder committed suicide during the course of the investigation. This announcement comes after a comprehensive review of the documentation and evidence collected over the past twelve years. Specifically, in the past two years, since the creation of the Cold Case initiative within the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the case was worked with the intent of considering a broader perspective of the relationships developed and a meticulous review of the evidence collected. Recently, the ability to deliver the news to Mr. and Mrs. Smith came with the conclusion of numerous investigative steps and final review of the historical timeline that corroborates this link. Thus, I felt it was important at this time to share with the Smiths that this link was made as the twelfth anniversary of their daughter’s murder approached. Regrettably, there will be nothing further that the judicial system can do given that this subject took his own life. Amongst the investigative steps taken and resources used include: •Thousands of hours dedicated exclusively to this investigation to include the use of confidential informants and officers operating in an undercover capacity •Several hundred interviews •Financial support for evidence audit and resubmission of forensic evidence for analysis given the advancements in scientific testing •A comprehensive review of all evidence and the submission of specific physical evidence collected dating back to 2002 was completed •Consultations with experts from the medical & science communities •Cooperative assistance from Federal authorities (FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit & Violent Crimes Task Force and their extended Federal contacts) •Media outlets (Nationally on America’s Most Wanted and Find Our Missing as well as local outlets) •Announcement of Cold Case Initiative investigation into Erica Smith case at first-ever Child Safety Day in 2012 •Creation of Historical timeline corroborating investigative link These steps are an overview of the efforts that began at the inception of this investigation on July 29, 2002 and continued over the past twelve years. The tremendous work done by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division with the assistance of outside agencies/partners has led to this announcement today. Finally, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office must be recognized for their vested interest, insight, and support given to the LCSO over the extent of this investigation. Upon being elected Sheriff and with Mr. and Mrs. Smith in mind, it was my goal to create a Cold Case Unit to review these older investigations. The intent was the hope to not only solve these cases, but attempt to bring closure to the family of the victims. We also wanted to ensure to the citizens of Loudoun that these cases are not forgotten nor are those victims or family members. The members of your Sheriff’s Office work diligently and endlessly to arrive at resolutions to crimes that occur in Loudoun County. After taking office, I reached out to the Smith family and asked them to be a part of our first-ever Child Safety Day. At the event we introduced the cold case initiative and highlighted Erica’s case. As we joined with the Smith family, we also wanted to educate the community on safety measures they can take to protect their children. Child Safety Day is now an annual event and the third annual Child Safety Day will be held on August 2nd from 12PM to 4PM at the Village at Leesburg. Child Safety Day is a safety initiative developed as a way to reach out to parents and children alike with a family friendly event providing information to parents on how they can protect their child from becoming a victim of a crime.
The interviews of subjects have continued with defining a timeline of events for “persons of interest”. In addition, interviews conducted over time have developed a female acquaintance that may have been associated with a person of interest. The extent is still being determined. A more expansive and detailed search of the time frame from 2002 to 2005 regarding this female and possible ties to the subject is underway at this time. Other subjects who were known to have associated with Erica have been located and were questioned about their involvement with her during time leading up to her death. Their interviews are being evaluated and compared to circumstances and time frames developed during the initial stages of the investigation. The forensic laboratory has completed an initial stage of evaluation of the hairs re-submitted for comparable analysis. Several of these hairs have been considered suitable for DNA testing and have been forwarded to the appropriate section for further analysis.
This update represents a review of the file since the inception of the Cold Case Unit implemented by Sheriff Chapman during April of 2012.
The forensic laboratory continues to evaluate hairs that were previously collected at the time of the discovery of Erica’s body. These hairs were re-submitted given the advancement of testing in DNA after the original submission to standards of testing that existed in 2002.
A review of the documentation in this investigation centered on individuals interviewed with the concept of “refocusing” on other areas of interest not previously inquired about with these subjects. To date, an improved timeline of events surrounding Erica’s disappearance as well as activities, behaviors, and actions of several “persons of interest” have come to light.
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