That night, Aug. 1, 1998, Mirzayan was walking home when she was dragged into the woods near Canal Road NW. A man heard her scream and called out to her, asking whether she was okay. She did not respond.
Her body was found the next day. Police said she had been sexually assaulted and died from a blow to the head.
Months passed without an arrest, and then years.
Now, police are renewing their efforts to find her killer. Authorities recently announced that DNA evidence links Mirzayan’s slaying to eight sexual assaults in Montgomery County from 1991 to 1998. In coming weeks, D.C. police said, they will launch a Web site dedicated to the case in the hope that it will bring in new tips.
“There are only a few options: One, he’s dead. Two, he’s incarcerated on something they don’t take DNA for,” said Capt. Michael Farish of the D.C. police’s homicide unit. “I don’t foresee someone committing a progressively violent string of attacks and saying, ‘I’ll never do this again.’ ”
Mirzayan’s husband at the time, David Hackos, said he and her family never dwelt on the fact that there has not been an arrest.
“To me, Christine was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Hackos said. “I never really felt this need to get revenge. I felt there’s no amount of revenge that could possibly bring back Christine.”
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Mirzayan had just finished her PhD at the University of California at San Francisco when she moved to the District for a fellowship.
Friends recalled Mirzayan’s passion for good wine and food, smooth jazz (especially Charles Mingus) and philosophy. Existentialist thought especially aroused her interest — she had studied Albert Camus during her undergraduate years at Yale — and Hackos said she believed that people are responsible for giving their lives meaning and that they should live life passionately and fully or commit suicide.
So she chose life.
Born in Tehran, Mirzayan and her parents, of Armenian descent, moved to Newport Beach, Calif., when she was 9 years old. Her older sister, Caroline, pursued a career in science, and Mirzayan followed. She graduated from Yale in 1991 with a degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and earned a PhD in biochemistry from UCSF in 1998.
Former UCSF professors described her as an idealistic student with a promising future in shaping national science and technology policy.
Marc Tessier-Lavigne, now president of Rockefeller University in New York City, remembered Mirzayan’s fascination with how nerve cells behave at the molecular level.
“She was very, very inquisitive,” said Tessier-Lavigne, her thesis adviser. “She cared about science; she cared about people. I close my eyes, I hear her laugh, I see her smile, I see her interest — she just loved to learn about everything.”