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Event Brings Cold Cases to Light, Focuses on Child Safety

Investigators hope to find new leads in decade-old murder of an Ashburn girl

During the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office’s first Child Victim Awareness Day, Sheriff Michael Chapman highlighted a new cold case initiative he's instituted since taking office in January, saying he hopes to find justice for 14-year-old murder victim Erica Heather Smith.

Erica disappeared after leaving her home in the vicinity of Junction Plaza in Ashburn and heading to a friend’s house on July 29, 2002. Her body was found in a shallow grave along Broad Run near an old pump house not far from 11 days later.

“We believe this is not a random act of violence, but rather Erica knew her assailant,” Chapman said Saturday, adding the cold case unit is re-interviewing witnesses and reexamining evidence. “Furthermore, we have reason to believe that there are individuals who have information pertinent to this ongoing investigation, that for whatever reason, have failed to come forward.”

Erica’s father William Smith said it’s important to realize the lack of an arrest means a killer remains on the loose, possibly still in the community.

“It’s so important that we try to get this child murderer off the streets,” he said, adding that no 14-year-old girl deserves to die.

Advances in forensic science since the crime now allow investigators to examine smaller samples of evidence, Chapman said.

“All evidence in Erica’s case was preserved,” he said. “We fully intend to capitalize on the new investigative technologies to handle these types of cases.”

Chapman put Major Richard Fiano—who has 35 years of law enforcement experience, including 30 years with the DEA—in charge of the cold case unit.

“We need your help,” Fiano said. “We know there’s information out there that we don’t have yet. Together, I think we can solve this crime and bring some closure to the Smith family, who really, really deserve it.”

Cynthia Robinson, who spoke on behalf of the family during a press conference, said it’s important for people to realize that information they consider to be unimportant may be key to the case.

“No bit of information is too small,” she said. “If you hear anything at all, please contact them. It’s our hope today that through our awareness the person or persons who did this will be brought to justice.”

Pamela Smith, Erica’s mother, called the Child Victim Awareness Day “amazing” and hoped it would help parents and children learn how to stay safe.

“I commend the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office for having child safety awareness day to help other children be alert, be wise and be safe,” she said, adding that it’s important understand that even acquaintances can be dangerous. “Be careful of who your friends are. Your friends aren’t always who you think they are.”

For more information about the case, visit www.loudoun.gov/ericasmith

A reward remains in effect for the case. Anyone with information about the case or possible suspect should contact the sheriff’s department at 703-777-1919 or Loudoun Crime Solvers at 1-877-777-1931. Investigators may also be contacted online at the website listed above.

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