Somewhere, I’d like to think that Stefanie Watson is looking down on us, smiling at the latest news—news that I first heard today from her cousin, Christy, who has been waiting 32 years for justice.
Two years have already passed since I first wrote about her murder, marking the 30th anniversary of a Laurel cold case that had somehow received next to no press throughout the decades. Then, last summer, the breakthrough finally came: Prince George’s County cold case detectives took the initiative to send DNA from the seat of Stefanie’s 1981 Chevette for analysis (the complete, blood-soaked chair had been kept in evidence all this time). Blood on the back unequivocally matched that of an inmate—John Ernest Walsh—who’s been incarcerated since 1989.
Walsh, who had been incomprehensibly released from Jessup’s now-defunct Patuxent Institution—despite having served only 8 years of a 72-year sentence for an unrelated kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder—committed this horrific crime during his brief period of freedom, before violating his parole in 1989 and returning to jail. He’s been a guest of Eastern Correctional Institution for the past 25 years; but until last summer, the thought of ever facing charges in Stefanie Watson’s murder had probably never crossed his mind.
Last June, Prince George’s County Police announced that a warrant was filed against Walsh. And today, after taking nearly 15 months to bolster their case, they announced the official indictment.
We’re also finally getting a chance to see what Walsh looked like around the time of his fateful encounter with Stefanie.
Nope. Not much improvement.
So, the next step will be the actual trial—where John Ernest Walsh will finally answer for the murder of Stefanie Watson during that unforgettable summer of 1982.
Laurel hasn’t forgotten Stefanie, and never will. Those of us who lived there in the days following her disappearance; in the weeks after young Todd McEvers made that grisly discovery in the woods at the dead end of Larchdale Road; and in the three decades it’s taken to find the man responsible for her death. We’re finally ready to see justice, and hopefully get even more answers.
Awesome! Good to know it wasn’t forgotten by those who could do something about it and they did. It was a very scary time to be a young woman in Laurel – I used to walk home to Laurel Pines from the mall after work (when the mall closed) and would be scared because this murder. Kept me vigilant. Thank you for sharing!
Very interesting. Thanks for the update Richard!
I remember the posters when they were looking for her….glad they caught the guy. It’s never too late for justice.
Congratulations to the detectives for their diligence in solving this case!
Finally…justice for Stefanie…thank you God…
Is there a follow up on this? Was he convicted?
We’re still waiting for the case to go to trial, Angela—hopefully sometime early in the new year. I think detectives are also running his DNA against other cold cases, which would only bolster their evidence against him.
The incompetent parole board should be held accountable for setting this pos free.. He was to serve a life sentence with no chance of parole…. Released after only serving 8 of 72 ?? This is absolutely disgusting …Not only to ad more salt to the wound knowing this killer has been in the palm of justices hand already for over 25 years….wtf