Nearly four decades later, arrest made in brutal murder of Stafford Co. woman; suspect linked to another killing in region

WTOP's Dick Uliano speaks with Detective D.K. Wood about the cold case broken open this week in Stafford County

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Elroy Harrison after his arrest on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Stafford County.(Credit Stafford County Sheriff's Office via Canva)

An arrest has been made in a cold case that has haunted Stafford County for nearly 40 years: the brutal sexual assault and murder of a DEA agent’s wife working one night at a real estate office in Stafford County.

Newly-analyzed forensic evidence in the case also points to the suspect’s involvement in the 1989 murder of a Stafford teen in Fairfax County, authorities say.

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday arrested Elroy Harrison, 65, in the Nov. 14, 1986, death of 34-year-old Jacqueline Lard. She was abducted from Mount Vernon Realty’s office on Garrisonville Road, beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Her body was dumped on the railroad tracks along U.S. 1 at the Fairfax-Prince William line.

At the time, a regional task force was established to help find the killer and physical evidence was carefully collected, but the case eventually grew cold.

“This meticulous collection of evidence would ultimately provide the suspect’s identification 37 years later,” said Stafford County sheriff’s Maj. Shawn Kimmitz.

Stafford Detective D.K. Wood “would not let the case go idle” and explored a new technology, forensic investigative genetic genealogy, to help identify the killer, Kimmitz said.

Wood worked with Parabon NanoLabs, a company providing DNA phenotyping, which identifies the physical characteristics of an unknown suspect. Forensic genetic genealogy uses genealogical databases and research to find a match.

“The analysis of the DNA linked the murder of Jacqueline Lard to the unsolved 1989 murder of Amy Baker in Fairfax County,” Kimmitz said in a news release.

Stafford County and Fairfax County detectives then joined forces, and on Dec. 14, a family name for the suspect was identified.

“Detectives followed up on the leads this technology created and ultimately obtained a search warrant for DNA from Stafford County resident Elroy Harrison,” Kimmitz said.

Last month, the Department of Forensic Science reported the DNA was a match, he said.

Jacqueline Lard, 34, was abducted from a Stafford real estate office in November 1986, sexually tortured and murdered. She was the wife of a DEA agent. (Credit Stafford County Sheriff’s Office)

On Monday, a Stafford County grand jury indicted Harrison on charges of first-degree murder, abduction with the intent to defile and aggravated malicious wounding of Jacqueline Lard as well as breaking and entering with the intent to commit murder, Kimmitz said. He was arrested Tuesday at his home and placed in the Rappahannock Regional Jail without bond.

Jacqueline Lard case

Lard was murdered while her husband was on a DEA mission in Costa Rica. Her 13-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son were staying overnight with family friends. She was scheduled to work that night, a Friday, until 9 p.m., when the office closed.

On Saturday morning, Lard’s co-workers arrived to find signs of a violent struggle. Blood was smeared on the walls and floors of the office. One of her black pumps, her business cards and some of her real estate papers were found strewn over an embankment, stained with blood.

Her champagne-colored 1985 Nissan was gone.

That Sunday, two boys playing in the woods on Railroad Avenue in north Woodbridge found Lard’s body under an old blanket. She had an orange dog leash knotted around her neck, investigators said in press interviews at the time.

Amy Baker case

Police believe 18-year-old Amy Baker, who had just moved with her family from Falls Church to Stafford County, ran out of gas along Interstate 95 the night of March 29, 1989, on her way home from visiting an aunt.

Amy Baker, 18, of Stafford County, was sexually assaulted, strangled and left dead in the woods the night of March 29, 1989. (Credit Family photo provided to Inside Nova)

Baker pulled her blue Volkswagen Beetle to the shoulder of I-95 near Backlick Road in Springfield, put on the blinkers and walked up the exit toward an Exxon station. Along the way, she encountered a killer.

She was sexually assaulted, strangled and left dead in the woods.

Two days later, her mother, Sue Baker, and aunt, searching near where her car was abandoned, found Amy’s body, partially covered in leaves. A Fairfax police detective was supposed to meet them there but hadn’t showed, Baker said.

“Thirty-five years, Kari, can you believe that?” Sue Baker said in a message to InsideNoVa Tuesday afternoon. “Now, the business at hand is to keep him in prison the rest of his life.”

Cold Case detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department are working alongside the commonwealth’s attorney to seek charges against Harrison for the murder of Baker, Kimmitz said.

Harrison appears to have no recent criminal history in Virginia. But Kimmitz said the sheriff’s office is “encouraging any agency in the region with unsolved cases to submit evidence for comparison.”

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