Virginia Beach, Va. - Christmas is Karen Malick's favorite holiday. But not this year. This year, her family is fractured.
A 1990 murder led police to her door in Erie, Pennsylvania last week. Detectives said her husband Robert could help them with an old case. She left for her office, thinking nothing of it.
"Imagine going to work one day and half of your life goes missing while you are there," Karen says.
The detectives didn't need Robert's help. They had come to take him.
"How exactly do you tell someone your husband has been arrested for murder?"
Virginia Beach Police detectives charged Robert Malick, a former sailor from Virginia Beach, with the murder of 17-year-old Joan Schoppaul. Her body was found wrapped in a sleeping bag and tossed into a grocery store dumpster. Police recently re-opened the case, but won't reveal the new forensic evidence they say solved it. Karen says police told Robert they found his fingerprint on the sleeping bag.
"They had been chasing a murderer for a year, and they found him. And the person I know is not the person he was," Karen says. "And I don't think shock begins to cover how you can feel."
But it wasn't shock in the sense that she'd unknowingly married a murderer. In fact, the opposite. She can't believe, and doesn't believe, the man she's known a
decade had anything to do with it.
"You can't do something like that and be this amazing father and husband," she says. "I think there is a mistake. I really do."
Karen met Robert in Erie 10 years ago. They dated, married, had twin boys. But the boys came too early. The first day Robert held his son Connor is the day he died. Nathan lived, but with disabilities. Robert quit work to be Nathan's full-time caretaker.
Karen says her husband appeared in local newspaper stories about their son, raised money for children's charities, and for the past eight years devoted his life to Nathan.
She says police tried to convince her he has a dark side, but she rejects that.
"No one believes that here. They can't reconcile a monster, someone who would do something like that to end someone's life, with the person they know," she says. "That person is not the person that held Connor in his arms with me as he died."
Robert Malick waived extradition on Monday. He told Karen he wants to get to Virginia Beach sooner to straighten all this out. Police told her they know they have the right person, but she says her husband -- who has no criminal record -- simply can't be the killer.
"I am so overwhelmed. I'm so overwhelmed. And I miss my husband. And they are portraying him to be something he isn't."