She Spent 23 Years Asking who Killed Her Mom. Then Her Phone Rang.

Lauren Preer
Lauren Preer and her parents at her graduation from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School in 1995.

For 23 years, she lived in the shadow of a question. In her waking hours, she turned to God and Montgomery County detectives. In her sleep, she looked for her mother.

“Mama,” Lauren Preer would say. “We need to find out what happened.”

Then another day would go by without Leslie J. Preer, or answers. So she carried on – living with the fact that her mother, then 50, had been beaten to death in an upstairs bedroom of her home in Chevy Chase, Md.

Now, she was 46 years old with good friends and a good career. She had a 9mm Taurus pistol at home and pepper spray in her purse. And she had hope, still, that one day there would be an arrest and that closure – or something like it – might follow.

On Tuesday, like in the movies, the call finally came. On the other side was not freedom, but shock – then betrayal and rage.

“We have evidence,” she recalled a detective telling her. “It’s Eugene Gligor.”

He was the boy she had fallen in love with at 16.

“No,” Preer said. “No.”

The Gligor she knew was sensitive and warm. Now he is charged with first-degree murder and facing arraignment in Montgomery County, where court records show he has yet to enter a plea. His lawyers did not respond to requests for comment Friday evening. A family member declined to comment.

In high school, Preer said, she liked Gligor for his good looks – deep brown hair and a wide smile – and because everyone liked him. He was gregarious and sweet. He was friends with her friends at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, where they both were students. They liked to go to hip-hop shows and sneak into country clubs to sled down hills blanketed in snow. He wanted to be a computer engineer.

Their families lived close by, Preer said, so they spent time at each other’s houses. Her dad would barbecue, her mom would cook pasta, and they would eat around the kitchen island.

He would join her family on trips to a lake near the Outer Banks and beaches in Delaware and Maryland, she said, where the four of them played games of Life and Parcheesi.

She never noticed anything out of the ordinary.

“We were just kids,” she said.

Preer said in the five years that they dated, she watched Gligor struggle with his parents’ divorce and knew that certain relatives of his had volatile tempers. But she said she never experienced violence with him nor suspected he was capable of it.

Preer said her mom always talked fondly about Gligor. It was her dad who insisted over and over again: “Lauren, there is something off about him.”

They broke up two years into long-distance dating, just after Preer’s second year of college. The conversation unfolded outside of Madam’s Organ, a bar in Northwest Washington.

She remembered saying something like, “We’re so young. Let’s see what is out there,” and that Gligor agreed.

They didn’t talk for three years.

Then, on a Wednesday in May 2001, Leslie J. Preer did not show up to work at Specialties Inc., an advertising production company in D.C. A co-worker and her husband, concerned, went to their house in the 4800 block of Drummond Avenue. They found blood in the foyer. Soon after, police found Leslie Preer dead in a bedroom. A detective later told a reporter it was “a pretty brutal crime scene.”

Preer said police asked her for a list of close family associates. She said she included Gligor.

On Thursday, a Montgomery County police spokeswoman, Shiera Goff, said that “a tip was called in for Eugene Gligor from one of his neighbors” and that the original case file included “the tip, an interview with the tipster, and his criminal history and incident reports that mentioned his name.”

He was not interviewed or swabbed, according to police, who would not say when they fielded the tip.

Hundreds of Lauren Preer’s friends and family members showed up at her mother’s funeral, in support. Gligor, Preer said, was not there.

Soon after the funeral, Lauren Preer recalled, she ran into him at a bar in Bethesda, Md. She said she told him that her mom had died, and he looked at her and replied: “I’m so sorry.”

Years passed. Their shared high school friends stayed close. She said she saw him a handful of times at events with mutual friends. Then, three years ago, she said, his brother texted her saying he was worried that Gligor was going to hurt him.

Preer, unsure of what to do and focused on taking care of herself, said she decided not to reply.

His brother, reached by phone Thursday, declined to comment.

She said she last saw Gligor at a D.C. restaurant after a memorial service for a mutual friend in 2019. She said they talked one-on-one. Her mom did not come up in conversation.

In the meantime, she thought, the investigation into her mother’s killing had gone cold. Police in the immediate aftermath suspected her father, Carl “Sandy” Preer. Lauren Preer was sure of his innocence.

He died of septic shock in 2017. Preer said it was really of a broken heart.

She also said her dad, on multiple occasions, had raised Gligor as a potential suspect. No way, she thought.

So she said she kept calling detectives. She kept asking for answers. She kept praying to God and talking to her mom in her sleep.

In September 2022, police said, investigators submitted blood from the crime scene to a lab for “forensic genetic genealogical DNA analysis” – a tool that has been effective for investigators in recent years.

Police did not provide details of how the blood that was given to the lab helped detectives identify Gligor. But it did.

Early this month, police said, investigators “collected DNA evidence belonging to Gligor and compared it to the DNA recovered from the crime scene. The analysis generated a positive match.”

Detectives obtained an arrest warrant Saturday and arrested Gligor in D.C. on Tuesday. His bond hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Preer plans to be there.

“I want to see him,” she said. “I want to give him a piece of my mind.”

Because for now, she said, all she wants to do is scream.