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2008 Latent Hit of the Year

Suspect ID’d in San Diego cold case murder. The award, which goes to an outstanding latent examiner or officer who worked the case, is presented annually at the International Association for Identification conference.


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The FBI Latent Hit of the Year is awarded annually to an outstanding latent examiner or officer who solved a major violent crime by using the FBI’s IAFIS database.

Early morning hours, checking the homes under construction, I had my spotlight turned towards the housing area…

The second house I came to, I saw a body lying on the garage floor. There was a lot of blood on the garage floor underneath the victim, there also was blood smeared all over the drywall. The victim was cold to the touch. Obviously dead. No pulse. I called it into dispatch.

I was working the same side of town as officer Sparks, and heard the call go out that he had discovered a homicide victim.

Through the next 30 years, everyone was aware of this case. It was the oldest unsolved murder case Escondido police had ever had.

In the early part of 2007, Norm Wight and I were hired by the police department as cold case detectives.

We thought that whoever did this has done other crimes before and after or both, so his fingerprints should be somewhere in the system.

We had no physical evidence, we had no witnesses, we had a 30 year-old cold murder case. All we had was the photograph of the bloody latent fingerprint.

It’s one of the more difficult prints I’ve seen.

Yes it’s a long shot, but we always go and try for them because it is our experience that sometimes the worst of the worst prints are identified.

I assigned it to Hoi because I knew she would take the time to really work with this difficult print.

You can see it’s a partial print to begin with. And it took us a while to really get it right before we searched this latent print.

We tried to estimate the size, adjust the contrast, tried to reverse image, and mirror image, and guess which one is the correct one that we should use.

Normally we search our state database which is the automated latent print system. We did not get any hit.

I tried the FBI IAFIS system.

I think I got a hit. Derrick, would you look at that?

Sure, let’s see what you got.

It came back with 20 candidates.

That does look good, yeah.

When I go down to number 9, it was a match, and my heart was pounding.

It was August 21st 2007. And I was at home when I received a call from Hoi Lui.

- I got a hit on the homicide case that we sent in. - What? That’s incredible!

When I received the call that day, I was like a child on Christmas morning and opening the best present that you could ever receive.

Sir, my name is Norman Wight, detective with the Escondido Police Department. We’re looking into a murder that occurred in 1977.

Once we got a name, Michael Moon, that hit gave us a starting point, then we really started the investigation.

Hey Mike, how you doing today?

We conducted a non-custodial, non-Mirandized interview of Michael Moon in Reno, which was tape recorded with a button camera.

I’m detective Chuck Gaylor. I was wondering if we might take a couple of minutes of your time. We’re trying to clear up some information on a case we’re investigating.

Being a carpenter, his most likely defense would be “I worked there at the crime scene, I cut myself, that’s how my bloody fingerprint wound up there.”

So our objective was to get him to distance himself from that crime scene.

Did you ever work at that complex? No.

When I first saw Michael Moon sitting in court, it was a wonderful feeling to know that the person who had committed this murder 30 years ago would now face justice.

Justice was served. We got the bad guys off the street.

When you get a hit off a latent fingerprint that has been submitted to IAFIS, your crime is probably solved.

Tap into the power of IAFIS.