A well-known biophysicist
who was one of the leading researchers on DNA sequencing analysis was
found slain in his rural Loudoun County home after co-workers became
concerned that he didn't come to work Monday, authorities said
Robert M. Schwartz, 57, a founding member of the
Virginia Biotechnology Association, was found dead in the secluded
fieldstone farmhouse southwest of Leesburg where he lived alone.
Friends said Schwartz's wife died of cancer several years ago and their
three children are away at college.
officials said an autopsy will be conducted today at the medical
examiner's office in Fairfax County. Sources said it appeared that
Schwartz had been stabbed.
Loudoun Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said Schwartz was
last heard from Friday. Co-workers at Virginia's Center for Innovative
Technology, a government-funded nonprofit agency in Herndon that was
created by the General Assembly in 1984, asked neighbors to check on
Schwartz when he didn't show up for work Monday and then missed a 1
"We're all stunned," said CIT President Anne Armstrong.
"We don't know anything. What we're assuming is maybe he walked in on
Simpson declined to say whether investigators have any
suspects but said officers worked all night Monday gathering evidence
and preparing a search warrant for an undisclosed location. "We have
some leads we are following up on," Simpson said.
Armstrong called Schwartz "one of the smartest people I
ever met" and said Schwartz worked at CIT for almost 15 years. Recently
he served as executive director of research and development and
university relations, helping to administer public grants.
According to CIT's Web site, Schwartz graduated cum laude
from Catholic University and has a doctorate in biophysics from
Stanford University. He worked at both Georgetown University and the
University of Maryland and contributed chapters to the Nucleic Acid
Sequence Database. He also worked on the first national online database
of DNA sequence information.
Robert G. Templin, who worked at CIT for about six
years, described Schwartz as a brilliant scientist who had a gift for
explaining complex scientific subjects in simple language.
"He was the kind of person who could live in the
scientific world or the business world or the everyday world of
Virginia citizens and explain why science is important," Templin said.
Neighbors described Schwartz as a quiet man who always
stopped to help if a car was stuck on the narrow dirt road leading to
their homes. They said he adored his farmhouse and the horse and three
goats he kept in a grassy fence-lined pasture. He also had a dog and a
"He enjoyed rural living," Templin said. "Outside of his professional work, his children and family were his major focus."
Armstrong said she last spoke with Schwartz on Friday
at the CIT office in Herndon. "He was concerned about getting home
because he had to muck out the horse stall," she said.
Armstrong said Schwartz's assistant came to her Monday when he didn't come into the office.
"She said, 'Did Bob tell you he was going to be
anyplace different today?' " Armstrong recalled. "She said he never
goes anyplace without calling."
When Schwartz still hadn't arrived for a 1 p.m. meeting, Armstrong said, they asked a neighbor to check on him.
"We know very little about the circumstances of Bob's
death, except that the Loudoun County authorities have informed us they
are treating it as a crime," Armstrong said. "If that is the case, it
is a senseless and random act of violence against a brilliant man."
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.