Category Archives: Forensic Science

Footwear, the Missed Evidence

Dwayne S. Hilderbrand, CLPE
Lead Latent Print Examiner
Scottsdale Police Crime Lab

This article originally appeared in Minutiae, The Lightning Powder Co. Newsletter, Nov-Dec 1995, p. 2-5, 11.

“The scope of a complete examination consists of two main functions: first,
the recovery process, which includes the discovery and preservation of the
prints, and second, the identification process, which involves evaluations,
comparisons, and findings related to the recovered impression.”

(Grieve 1988).

Introduction

“Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even
unconsciously, will serve as silent witness against him. Not only his
fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibers from his clothing,
the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the
blood or semen he deposits or collects.. All of these and more bear mute
witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused
by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses
are, it is factual evidence, physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot
perjure itself; it cannot be wholly absent, only its interpretation can err.
Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its
value.”

(Paul L. Kirk 1974).

On September 19, 1991, two German tourists were hiking in the mountains on the border between Austria and Italy when they spotted a body buried in the ice. The two tourists, suspecting foul play, contacted the authorities. As it was not clear at the time exactly where the body was found, police authorities from Austria and Italy responded. Following the normal procedures for the recovery of the body, they attempted to free it from the ice using jack hammers. Unfortunately, the jack hammers were damaging the body, pickaxes and ski poles were then used.

Continue reading

Fingerprinting the Dead

by Daryl W. Clemens

Plastic Tape

Plastic Tape

Obtaining fingerprints for identification is a long established law enforcement practice. When the practice started, is was most common to use printers ink applied to the fingers which were then pressed onto paper cards. Later specialized inks were employed to improve the quality of the prints obtained. While ink is still used today, many agencies are now using computer “live-scan” methods to record reference prints. Continue reading

Ear Identification

Presented at the conference for Shoeprint and Toolmark Examiners Noordwijkerhout, 24 April 1997.

Introduction:
The subject of my presentation for this conference is ear research / ear identification. It concerns not only the research into the adversity of ears but also the finding of earprints especially in relation to committed penal acts. My further reasoning will be separated into four parts.

1. A piece of history according to ear research and what is known about that subject in literature.

2. The history of ear research in the Netherlands in which I will indicate the present state of affairs.

3. International developments (as far as I’m concerned).

4. The criminological value of earprints in the future, especially my views on the internationalization of earprint research, standard norms and co-operation. Continue reading

Latent Prints in Dust

by Captain Curtis C. Frame,
Criminal Investigation Division
Jasper County Sheriff’s Office
Jasper, Texas
Article Copyright © 2000, Curtis C. Frame

A Latent print found in dust, may be the only clue to a case in which there are no other leads. And because the areas that are routinely touched by the victims are not normally dusty, the dust print we find may be the only link we have of the perpetrator to the crime scene. However, most crime scene and latent print examiner experts will say that, regardless of their importance, latent prints in dust are a nightmare. This is due to the fact that a latent print in dust was actually left there due to the dust being removed by adhering to the ridges of the skin that touched it. Continue reading

Condom Trace Evidence: A New Factor in Sexual Assault Investigations

By Robert D. Blackledge, M.S.
Mr. Blackledge is senior chemist at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Regional Forensic Laboratory in San Diego, California.

This Article Originally Appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, May 1996.

(Offenders are changing the nature of sexual assault investigations by wearing condoms.)
In an age filled with potentially fatal sexually transmitted diseases, more and more individuals practice safe sex. Even perpetrators of sex crimes have begun to wear condoms.1 It is not likely that a fear of disease prompts this behavior. Rather, just as a burglar dons gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, sexual offenders now wear condoms to avoid depositing seminal fluids. Continue reading

Black Powder Processing

By Pat A. Wertheim

This article originally appeared in “Minutiae”, The Lightning Powder Co. Newsletter, No. 42, May-June 1997, p. 6.

Although old-fashioned black powder is the workhorse of fingerprint development
techniques for crime scene use and is also an important method in the laboratory,
maximizing the effectiveness of powder requires far more sophistication than
simply dipping a brush into the jar of powder and painting it onto a surface.

More control can be exercised over black powder by working out of a shallow
dish. The perfect disposable dish can be made by cutting or tearing a blank
inked fingerprint card from any edge into the center of the card. Overlap
the two edges of the cut by about an inch (two or three centimeters) and
tape the card back together to make the dish. A large laboratory weighing
dish may be used, or any other shallow dish or bowl. Place one-half to one
teaspoon of powder (approximately one millilitre) into the dish. Continue reading

Bite Mark Analysis

Written by Katherine Steck-Flynn

Ted Bundy was a killer. Not only was he a killer but he was a serial killer. He rampaged through a large part of the United States killing and brutalizing women from 1974 until his eventually capture in 1978(Ramsland, 2004). He was captured twice and managed to escape twice. Under stress from life as a fugitive he made the fatal mistake which would lead to his conviction and eventual execution.

Ted Bundy bludgeoned, raped and tortured more than 30 women. Some estimates are closer to forty. Yet he did not fit the profile of a killer. He was intelligent and some say handsome. He seemed to have a future as a lawyer. He killed most of his victims without leaving any traceable evidence. In some cases the bodies were not found until years later. In most cases he left no fingerprints or other traceable evidence. DNA was recovered but could not be matched conclusively to Ted Bundy( Ramsland, 2004). Continue reading

Bad Science

by D. H. Garrison, Jr.
Forensic Services Unit
Grand Rapids Police Department
Grand Rapids, Michigan

This Article Originally Appeared in the MAFS Newsletter, October 1991.

Forensic science is the product of an uneasy and unholy mating of Science,
the objective seeker of truth and knowledge, and Forensics, the argumentative
persuader of courtroom advocacy. It is not called Justice Science, Law Science,
or Truth Science, as many of us would like to imagine. We are a bastard child,
an orphan, but still the subject of an intense child custody battle between
our estranged parents, the truth seeker and the advocate. The tug-of-war
goes on daily for our loyalties and confidences, each side offering candy
and warm hugs. These separated parents have visitation rights. Sometimes
they take our brothers and sisters away. Sometimes they don’t come back. Continue reading

Hidden Evidence: Latent Prints on Human Skin

By Ivan Ross Futrell
Mr. Futrell is a supervisory fingerprint specialist in the Latent Fingerprint
Section of the FBI Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

This Article Originally Appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, April 1996.

(Recent research proves that identifiable prints can be obtained from the
skin of homicide victims under real field conditions, not just in the
laboratory.)

Whether to stop them from fleeing, immobilize them, or dispose of them, murderers
often grab their victims. What homicide detective has not wished for the
ability to develop identifiable fingerprints of a suspect from the skin of
a dead body? Crucial fingerprint evidence linking the perpetrator to the
victim must be right there, but, until recently, attempts to retrieve those
prints rarely met with success. Continue reading

Case Study: Conviction Through Enhanced Fingerprint Identification

This article originally appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, December 1992.

In March 1990, an unknown assailant sexually molested and fatally stabbed a young woman. At the crime scene, an investigator discovered few leads. The only evidence was a pillowcase, found adjacent to the victim’s body, that exhibited several bloodstains. One stain showed some faint fingerprint ridge detail, barely visible even to the trained eye. Continue reading