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Convicted rapist pleads guilty to 1982 Prince George’s Co. murder

A man serving time for a rape conviction pleaded guilty Monday to the 1982 murder of Laurel woman nearly three years after DNA established a link between him and the victim and revived the cold case.

John Ernest Walsh, 71, was sentenced to 33 years in prison, to run consecutive to the time he is currently serving, according to a news release from the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Walsh was first linked to the murder of Stefanie Watson after county police submitted 31-year-old blood samples for comparison to the state-maintained DNA database in 2013, according to the release.

Watson left her apartment for an evening shift as a receptionist at Laurel Hospital on July 22, 1982 but never arrived and was reported missing, according to the release. Her car was found covered in blood and her skull was found in a wooded area months later.

Walsh was on parole at the time, having been convicted of two counts of rape in 1969 and sentenced to 72 years in prison but released in 1980, according to the release.

Prosecutors spent more than a year on the investigation into Walsh before seeking an indictment in the fall of 2014.