ASHBURN, Va. (WJLA) - Though Loudoun County police say they discovered who killed an Ashburn teenager back in 2002, authorities also say the victim's family may never know who was responsible for her murder.
For 12 years, the Smith family has been waiting, wondering who killed their daughter, Erica, when she was just 14 years old. Loudoun County police now have a suspect, but aren't releasing his name.
A Christmas tree has remained in place in a corner of Pamela and William Smith's living room since 2002.
"[Erica] was such a loving person," Pamela Smith said of her daughter. "She loved Christmas. This tree kept me going, it kept me fighting, kept me being the voice for her."
Twelve years ago, Erica was found murdered only miles from the family's Ashburn home.
"Only the perpetrator, this vicious murderer, knew exactly what he did to her, to take her last breath," said Erica's father, William Smith.
Around noon on Friday, sheriff's investigators contacted the Smiths, saying they had linked a suspect to their daughter's death, but that he had committed suicide and was not being identified.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office issued a statement that says, in part, "Regrettably, there will be nothing further the justice system can do, given that this subject took his own life."
"Erica is the victim here," Pamela Smith said. "She has every right to know, and the public has every right to know what this monster did to our daughter."
Erica disappeared on July 29, 2002, while she was on her way to visit a friend. Her family believes her killer called her from a payphone just blocks from their home, with the promise of a summer job.
"Our beautiful daughter was stalked by this individual to the point where he murdered her," William Smith said.
Eleven days later, Erica's body was found in a shallow grave along Broad Run Creek.
Now, 12 years later, the Smiths are hoping for answers and closure.
"There's no other family that he can hurt," William Smith said. "He can't hurt anyone anymore."
Pamela Smith added, "She was an angel here on earth, and she's an angel in our hearts."
The Smiths still hope to meet with investigators in the case to finally learn the identity of the person suspected of killing their daughter.