2013 Latent Hit of the Year Award
How the FBI’s fingerprint database helped police in California solve a 1999 murder.
|The latent print on the left was taken from a store catalog found at the scene of a 1999 murder of a jeweler. On the right is the fingerprint from IAFIS matched to the latent print by a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department fingerprint examiner.
Latent Hit of the Year Award
Fingerprint Tool Helps Solve 1999 Murder
In September 2001, a California sheriff’s department linked up electronically with the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS, through the California Department of Justice. To test the system, the department selected as its inaugural submission a latent print found at the crime scene of an unsolved 1999 murder. IAFIS returned several possible matches, and subsequent investigation led to the arrest and guilty plea of the man responsible.
And three key individuals involved in this case were recently selected for the 2013 Latent “Hit of the Year” Award, given annually by our Criminal Justice Information Services Division to latent print examiners and law enforcement officers for their efforts to solve major crimes using IAFIS latent print services.
How the investigation began. On December 2, 1999, the San Bernardino Police Department responded to a call regarding an unresponsive male on the floor of a jewelry store. The victim was identified as 74-year-old Marshall Adams, a well known jeweler who worked for 25 years as a teacher before opening his own store.
San Bernardino Police detective John Munoz headed the investigation, with assistance from the Scientific Investigations Division of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Identification technicians—including Randy Beasley—collected latent fingerprints, palmprints, and blood evidence obtained from a knife, doors, and a store catalog. Beasley also discovered a bloody palmprint on the victim’s face. Adams had been brutally beaten and stabbed, and his wallet and several pieces of display case jewelry were missing.
2013 Latent Hit of the Year Award Recipients
The sheriff’s department processed the crime scene evidence and searched all latent prints against their own databases. One possible suspect was identified but then cleared. With no other leads, the case went cold.
IAFIS proves its mettle. Then, in September 2001, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department joined the IAFIS network and sent in a fingerprint from the Adams case—specifically, a latent print taken from a jewelry catalog. Shortly thereafter, IAFIS responded with a list of possible candidates. Supervising fingerprint examiner James Nursall concluded that the latent print evidence was a match to one of the candidates—Jad Salem—who according to IAFIS had been arrested in Texas two weeks after Adams’ murder. He had been stopped for a traffic violation but was then arrested on a drug charge, and Texas authorities entered Salem’s prints into IAFIS.
Detective Munoz located Salem in San Bernardino. After being advised of the fingerprint evidence against him, Salem agreed to provide his fingerprints and palmprints for comparison against latent evidence collected from the crime scene. Fingerprint examiner Nursall concluded that Salem’s prints matched the latent prints found on the jewelry store door and on the victim’s face.
Salem was arrested and charged with Adams’ murder. During an interview, Salem admitted being at the crime scene but claimed to have only been a witness. He could not, however, explain how his palmprint left a bloody impression on the victim’s face. And according to courtroom proceedings, Salem and Adams had met several times to discuss the purchase of an engagement ring.
In the face of this overwhelming evidence, Salem pled guilty and was sentenced to 32 years in prison. Proof positive of the key role that technology can play in identifying dangerous criminals and bringing them to justice.
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