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Scientist Found Slain In His Loudoun Home

Peers Alarmed When He Missed Work

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2001; Page B01

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 yesterday.

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.

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Loudoun sheriff's 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 p.m. meeting.

"We're all stunned," said CIT President Anne Armstrong. "We don't know anything. What we're assuming is maybe he walked in on something."

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 bird.

"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.


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