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DNA test leads police to cold-case murder arrest

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Published on: Tuesday, July 02, 2013

By Jim Davis

After 31 years, Prince George’s County Police Department arrested a suspect for a Laurel homicide.

Stefanie Sue Watson, 27, of Laurel, worked as a receptionist at Laurel-Beltsville Hospital in 1982.

On July 22, 1982, Watson left work and never returned.

A co-worker had last seen Watson at a bank near the hospital. That co-worker was the last person to see Watson alive. She never made it to work, and the next day her cousin filed a missing persons report with Laurel Police Department.

After several days, Laurel police officers located Watson’s 1981 Chevy Chevette in a parking lot just a few blocks from her home. Officers on the scene said the inside of the car was soaked with blood.

About a month after Watson’s car was found, an individual reported seeing a man, wearing a yellow glove, driving to the end of Larchdale Road, getting out of his car and discarding something into the woods near a swimming pool.

Laurel police located Watson’s dismembered remains in those woods.

As the days, weeks, months and years went by, there were no leads in the homicide investigation.

Then, on June 25, Sgt. Richard Fulginiti of the homicide cold case unit announced the arrest of John Ernest Walsh, 69, of Savage.

Fulginiti said Walsh was sentenced to serve more than 70 years in prison for a 1969 rape, but he only served eight years.

“When he was originally convicted, he went to Patuxent Institution in Jessup,” Fulginiti said. “At that time, Patuxent Institution did not fall under the category of the Department of Corrections. After eight years of incarceration on a 72-year sentence, he was given work release. Two years after that, in 1980, he was paroled.”

Fulginiti said Walsh violated his parole and went back to prison in 1989, where he has been ever since.

When Walsh was arrested for the second time, his DNA was taken and a match was made linking Walsh to Watson’s homicide, Fulginiti said.

“Evidence was initially sent to the FBI laboratory,” Fulginiti said. “At that time, the only tests that were done and could be done at that time were blood matching, and we knew at that time there were several different blood types.”

DNA testing has progressed since then, and police were able to “conduct a positive test” this year, Fulginiti said.

Walsh, who is in a West Virginia jail, will be charged with first-degree murder and other charges, Fulginiti said.

The motive for the crime has never been established, Fulginiti said.

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