VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A man arrested for a 1990 murder in Virginia Beach is in court for his trial this week.
Robert Malick, 48, was arrested on December 15, 2014, in Erie, Penn., and charged with second degree murder for the 1990 killing of 17-year-old Joan Schoppaul.
Malick entered a plea of not guilty.
A detective and the prosecutor said it was four bloody fingerprints found at the crime scene nearly 26 years ago that led police to Malick. A detective said a "fingerprint card" from a federal job for which Malick had applied was later included in a nationwide database, and that's how police made the match.
Schoppaul was last seen on the morning of Tuesday, December 4, 1990. She was to return home after visiting a friend but never arrived. Her worried parents filed a missing persons report, according to police. Police said that when they first asked Malick about Schoppaul, who lived across the street from him, he said only that he knew the teen in passing. Later, according to Det. Doug Zebley, Malick admitted he'd had sex with the girl before she disappeared.
Within 24 hours of leaving home, Joan’s body was found. She had been wrapped in layers of trash bags and a blue sleeping bag and tossed into a dumpster behind the former Food Lion Supermarket located at 4740 Baxter Road. Police said she was strangled and sexually assaulted.
In court on Wednesday, the Medical Examiner testified on the condition of Joan's body. They said they found tinsel, human hair and animal hair that appeared to be from a dog, on her body.
The former employee for a Getty Mart testified that she saw Joan the night before she was found dead at around 10:45 p.m. She testified thought it was odd the young girl was out that late.
Joan's former boyfriend took the stand and testified that Malick sexually harassed her.
Brian Kennedy said that Malick used to sexually harass Joan and even threatened her once. He told the courtroom that Malick said he was "going to get her" after accusing her of stealing coins from him.
But the defense fought back trying to poke holes at the credibility of the witness saying he lied about being married to Joan and didn't tell police about the harassment when they were first investigating.
On the stand Wednesday was an expert who handled the four bloody fingerprints found on evidence in 1990. Another expert also took the stand and discussed how the fingers prints were ran through the federal database in 2014. They told the courtroom the fingerprints were a match to Malick.
A cold case detective from the Virginia Beach Police Department explained how the case was reignited in 2014 after a student from UVA had made a public information request to the police department about Joan's case.
The detective realized that the old fingerprints found at the scene needed to be run through a newer federal database, one that didn't exist in 1990, according to the fingerprint expert.
A current inmate serving an over seven year sentence also took the stand to testify that Malick allegedly confessed to the crime while in jail. The defense argued that the inmate is just trying to get a chance to have his sentence reduced.
In an odd turn of events, a witness who is supposed to be in court on Wednesday refused to show up to testify, according to the defense. The witness apparently said she will not be bullied because she's a former cop.
On Thursday, the defense said that someone else admitted to the murder through a third party confession. After that statement, the court recessed.
The defense got a big win in court when the judge ruled in their favor to allow three relatives to testify for the defense. All three men are related to Larry Outten. Outten died in 1996, but his brother William Outten said that Larry Outten confessed to killing Joan while he was very sick in the hospital. William Outten said he did not tell anyone because he didn't want his brother to go to jail. William said that he jokingly asked Larry if he killed that girl and Larry said yes.
Larry's son, Larry Junior also told the court room that looking back now, he believes his father's relationship with Joan was inappropriate. He said Joan used to babysit his younger brother and would be at their house frequently, sometimes in locked rooms with Larry.
The prosecution fought to keep the jury from hearing this information but in the end, the judge ruled in the defense's favor.
There was another man the defense was trying to label as a possible suspect in the case, but the judge said there wasn't enough evidence. The jury did not hear any information related to that suspect.
A former cold case detective took the stand and described what it was like when they traveled to Erie, Pennsylvania to talk to Malick.
The detective said that Malick first provided them with information and names of other people in the neighborhood who could possibly help them with their case.
They said he lied about his relationship with Joan and then admitted that he had sex with a minor and said he was not proud of it right before she was killed.
He then allegedly said to the detective that he had done something and "[he] need[ed] to know how to get out of it." He refused to talk to detectives any further.
Virginia Beach Police got authorities in Pennsylvania involved in the case and executed a search warrant, according to the testimony.
The prosecution rested their case around lunchtime on Thursday.
On Friday, Joan's sister Kirsty was among the people who testified. She said Larry Outten was never inappropriate with Joan and was more like a father figure. Kirsty said she mowed Outten's lawn and Joan would babysit his children. Kirsty said she remained friends with Outten until he died in 1996.
Outten was interviewed by police when the crime first happened, but he was never arrested for the murder.
The defense rested their case on Friday. Closing arguments are expected to start at 9 a.m. on June 13.