DNA leads to arrest in 38-year-old Stafford cold case

by | Mar 5, 2024 | ALLFFP, News, Police and Fire, Stafford

Stafford County resident Jaqueline Lard was murdered in 1986, and her killer remained unidentified for nearly 40 years.

Now Sheriff David Decatur Jr. reports that a suspect, Elroy Harrison, is in custody. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the DNA evidence also linked Harrison, 65, to the 1989 murder of Stafford County resident Amy Baker in Fairfax County.  

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

Cold case detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department are working alongside the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney to seek charges against Harrison for the murder of Baker.  

On Nov. 14, 1986, Lard, 40, was working at Mount Vernon Realty in the 300 block of Garrisonville Road. She was last seen that evening at 9 p.m. as the business closed. Lard never made it home that night. On the morning of Nov. 15, 1986, employees of other businesses in the area discovered a crime scene at the realty office indicating a struggle. Lard and her vehicle were both missing.  

Jacqueline Lard

Stafford County detectives, assisted by the Virginia State Police Crime Scene Unit and the FBI processed the scene and collected blood and other evidence. The following day, two juveniles were playing in a wooded area near Railroad Avenue in Woodbridge and discovered a body beneath a pile of discarded carpet. Stafford detectives joined Prince William detectives and the FBI to process the scene and identified the deceased as Lard. This collection of evidence led to the suspect’s identification 37 years later. Lard’s missing vehicle was found in Fairfax County on Dec. 18, 1986, leading to more evidence recovery.  

Over the years, detectives from multiple agencies, both federal and state, followed up on leads and conducted interviews, resulting in the elimination of numerous suspects and persons of interest. The FBI created a task force combining the efforts of the Stafford Sheriff’s Office, the Prince William County Police Department, the FBI and the DEA. DNA was extracted from the evidence, but repeated searches of the Virginia and National DNA Databanks via CODIS in addition to direct comparisons against submitted persons of interest and familial searches failed to identify the killer. The leads were exhausted, and the investigation moved to cold case status.  

Sheriff Decatur and Detective D.K. Wood explored using a new technology, forensic investigative genetic genealogy, to help identify the killer. Wood worked with Parabon NanoLabs, a company providing DNA phenotyping, to analyze the evidence. That DNA evidence linked the murder of Lard to the unsolved murder of Baker.  

On Dec. 14, 2023, a family name for the suspect was identified. Detectives followed up and obtained a search warrant for DNA from Harrison.  

Last month, the Department of Forensic Science reported the DNA was a match. After nearly four decades, the identity of the murder suspect had been revealed.  


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