VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – 17-year-old Joan Schoppaul’s body was found wrapped in a sleeping bag behind a dumpster in Virginia Beach on Dec. 5, 1990, one day after her worried parents filed a missing persons report. Her death was ruled a homicide and police launched an extensive search for her killer. Unfortunately, the case went cold.
Now, 24 years later, police said – thanks to advanced technology and new forensic techniques – they arrested a suspect in this case. On Dec. 15, with the assistance of Pennsylvania State Police, detectives located and arrested Robert William Malick.
Malick, 46, has been charged with second degree murder. He was transported from Pennsylvania to Virginia Beach Jan. 6.
Daphne Saxon, a friend of Schoppaul, told 10 On Your Side “24 years is a long time.” She said much of it was spent trying to figure out what happened to her friend.
“I’ve always had fears ever since this has happened that he was going to do something to me,” she told 10 On Your Side. “Even though I didn’t know who it was because of that, it caused a lot of mental health problems with me.”
Saxon said she went into deep depression because of the many unanswered questions. Jeanette Richardson knows of the experience first-hand. She started the Virginia Beach chapter of the national organization – Parents of Murdered Children.
“It’s just a heartbreaking experience when you do not have any kind of indication as to who this person was and why they would do such a thing. It just adds to the heartbreak that much more,” Richardson said.
Although they wouldn’t talk on camera, Virginia Beach police said it was forensics that led them to arrest the 46-year-old man. He was 22 when police said he killed 17-year-old Schoppaul.
“I’m glad that they have this DNA and stuff because it might have never been opened. It might have never been found. This guy could be still going around,” Saxon said.
Richardson hopes this new development – heating up this cold case – is enough for other families not to give up.
“I would hope that they would have a little bit of hope to think that there is hope out there that maybe their child’s murderer or their loved ones murdered might be brought to justice with this science,” Richardson said.