Jury trial begins for man charged in 1990 murder case

Robert Malick arrives in a Virginia Beach courtroom for the first day of a jury trial. He is accused in the 1990 murder of Joan Schoppaul. Credit: WAVY/Aaron Kurtz

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A jury trial is underway for the man charged in the killing of a Virginia Beach teenager in 1990.

Police say 48-year-old Robert Malick killed 17-year-old Joan Schoppaul in 1990 and dumped her remains behind a grocery store on Baxter Road.

Schoppaul’s body was found in a sleeping bag in the dumpster on Dec. 5, 1990, one day after her parents had filed a missing persons report.

Joan Schoppaul

The case went cold until December of 2014, when authorities arrested Malick. He was charged with second-degree murder.

Malick was 22 years old when police found Schoppaul’s body. The Commonwealth’s Attorney says they found Malick’s bloody fingerprint on the trash bag.

Photos: Suspect arrested in teen’s 1990 murder

Malick, a former Navy sailor, was living in Pennsylvania at the time of his arrest in 2014.

On Wednesday, a fingerprint expert testified that new technology helped her match Malick’s fingerprints from the crime scene to a database, decades later. She said she could not say when the prints were left on the evidence.

Another man testified that when he was in jail he heard Malick say he killed the victim. The man admitted he was testifying for the chance to ask a judge for a reduced sentence, but also said Malick’s alleged statement “didn’t sit well” with him.

Schoppaul’s former boyfriend also took the stand and said the defendant had threatened to “get” Schoppaul. Defense attorney James Broccoletti pointed out that the witness had made false statements about other things, and never shared information about the alleged threats with police immediately after the murder.

During the preliminary hearing, prosecutors said Malick told detectives that he had sex with Schoppaul the night before her body was found.

The trial is expected to last six days.

On Wednesday the judge issued an order for a defense witness to appear by Thursday, after saying the witness had indicated she would not come to court. The witness is a retired Virginia Beach detective, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.

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