Five details about Meghan Landowski's murder explored

Meghan Landowski
Five details about Meghan Landowski's murder explored (Image via Pexels)

The 2008 murder of Meghan Landowski of Portsmouth shocked the community for the brutality of the incident. Landowski, a star ballet dancer, was bound and s*xually assaulted before she was stabbed over 40 times by an intruder in April 2008.

While there had been a bounty of evidence recovered from the crime scene, the investigators from the Portsmouth Police Department struggled to find the right suspect till they received a tip from a school bus driver. The Dateline: Secrets Uncovered episode titled The Call aired on April 24, 2024, at 8 pm EST on Oxygen chronicled Landowski's murder. The official synopsis reads:

"A dancer is murdered in her Virginia home; after interviewing a series of suspects, detectives realize the case is much more complicated than previously thought."

Episode 16 of season 12 is now available for streaming on YouTube TV, Apple TV, and NBC.

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of s*xual assault.

Five details about Meghan Landowski's murder explored

1) Meghan Landowski was brutally stabbed to death in her Portsmouth home

Meghan Landowski was found stabbed to death in her Portsmouth house by her stepfather, Christopher Shortt, on April 10, 2008, as per CBS News. She had returned from school and was attacked by an intruder. Shortt found Meghan in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor when he returned home from work around 4 pm local time.


The assault reportedly began in the bedroom and carried on to the kitchen where she was murdered. Meghan's arms were bound with duct tape and she was naked waist-down. According to The Virginian-Pilot, her autopsy report mentioned that she had been stabbed over 40 times with almost a dozen being inflicted post-mortem.

2) Landowski was a survivor of s*xual abuse at the time of her death

At the time of her murder, Meghan Landowski had been in the middle of an NCIS investigation. She had been a survivor of s*xual abuse as her father's friend and fellow Navy Corpsman, Robert Hicke, had allegedly been grooming her and assaulting her from time to time from when she was 15 years old.

According to CBS News, Sergeant Robert McDaniels mentioned that NCIS had been contacted for assistance as the age of consent in Virginia was 15 years old while the same was 16 years old in the military.

3) The investigators struggled to identify the suspect for six months

The Virginian-Pilot reported that the investigation into the murder of the Woodrow Wilson High School sophomore began with the 911 call from Chris Shortt. While Chris Shortt named Robert Hicke as the suspect over the 911 call, a biogeographical ancestry analysis of the DNA sample collected from the crime scene revealed that the killer came from an African-American background.

As Hicke was ruled out, the Portsmouth Police Department looked into another suspect - a camp counselor at a youth camp at the Navy shipyard that Meghan Landowski had attended. However, he was ruled out as well.

The investigators arrived at Robert Barnes as their suspect with a tip from the school bus driver in September 2008, as per CBS News.

4) Both murder weapons were recovered from the area of the crime scene

According to The Virginian-Pilot, the investigators from the Portsmouth Police Department collected evidence for five days. The evidence from the crime scene included 121 fingerprints and footprints from a pair of bloodied Nikes, blood from the sink handle and doorknob, a leaf from the shrub outside, and blood evidence from the edge of the tape dispenser.

The killer was suspected of washing his hands in the kitchen sink as he left behind one of the knives in the sink. The other knife missing from the knife block on the counter was recovered from a storm drain about 100 meters away from the crime scene.

5) Robert Barnes was charged with Meghan Landowski's murder

Robert Barnes, a junior from Churchland High School and music student at the Governor’s School of Arts, was suspected of Meghan Landowski's murder. He fit the suspect's description and additionally found ways to evade the DNA test. As reported by CBS News, Barnes gave the detectives a false account of the events on April 18.


The footprints were matched to his Nike tennis shoes while he swapped the gum he gave the police for DNA testing. Robert Barnes was arrested with multiple charges and sentenced to 42 years in prison.

Dateline: Secrets Uncovered episode 16 of season 12 is available for streaming on Apple TV, YouTube TV, and NBC.

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