Latent Hit of the Year 2007
Latent Hit of the Year 2007. Michigan.
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.
2007. Greg Michaud.
Peter Jaklevic: Big Rapids is and was a small town. We had very few homicides in Big Rapids. And we certainly had very very few homicides where an elderly woman, as innocent as Stella was, was murdered.
Greg Michaud: The victim on this crime was Stella Lintemuth. She was an 89-year-old woman who was found brutally murdered on her bedroom floor.
Peter Jaklevic: When she was murdered she was just a day or two shy of her 90th birthday.
Ken Lucht: It was real shocking… hard to comprehend who would do something like that.
Peter Jaklevic: So this had to be a real shock for a small community. Not only was somebody killed, but an old woman, in her home, savagely attacked.
Greg Michaud: What was unique about the setting of Stella Lintemuth’s residence was a set of train tracks that ran behind the house. And it was always thought that maybe somebody transient in nature got off the train and committed the crime.
One of the forensic scientists that went to the crime scene that day to process it for evidence was Sargeant Jerry Disler.
Peter Jaklevic: Now Jerry Disler, at the time, was the best latent fingerprint examiner in the state of Michigan. They went over that house in painstaking detail, lifted prints from every possible surface that they may be on. It took them several hours.
Jerry Disler: When we got to the bedroom there was the base of an old porcelain lamp, I took and processed that and got latent fingerprints off the base of the lamp.
Peter Jaklevic: When they found that lamp on the ground next to Stella, the cord to which was wrapped around her head, and they found those two prints off of a person’s left hand right where you screw in the light bulb, Jerry Disler said to everybody there, “If we find out whose prints these are, this is our killer.
George Pratt: Well we canvassed the neighborhoods, and we spent many hours and many days and many weeks in an attempt to make a determination who may be responsible for the case
Peter Jaklevic: We had no leads. We had nothing except a lot of good fingerprints.
Greg Michaud: Because there was an unknown assailant, sometimes the agencies will go on what we call a fishing expedition. And they’ll submit known impressions of random individuals who may have been in the county at that time or in the area.
Peter Jaklevic: There were probably somewhere in the neighborhood of three to four hundred manual comparisons done by Jerry Disler.
Jerry Disler: Each time you make those examinations, you’re hoping.
Ken Lucht: In my mind, no chance at all of ever finding this guy.
Greg Michaud: In law enforcement, the longer a case goes unsolved, the less likely it’s gonna be solved.
Jerry Disler: When I retired 16 years later I had to put it in the open case file and walk away from it. Then Greg took an interest in it.
Greg Michaud: When I transferred into the forensic science division in 1993, as part of the training program, they give us actual cases to work on. So I got involved with this case when I realized who the victim was. Not that I knew Stella Lintemuth, but who she represented.
Jerry Disler: He basically grabbed it and ran with it.
Greg Michaud: In December of 2006, I realized that we had the electronic connectivity to the FBI’s database that we recently had established. I wasn’t sure if this fingerprint had been searched against the FBI’s database.
I immediately took that image and enterered it into the Universal Latent Workstation, which is the FBI’s IAFIS software application for searching.
Greg Michaud of the Michigan State Police crime lab got a hit on the fingerprints.
Greg Michaud: Once we got the hit from IAFIS, we were able to identify several other latent fingerprints left at the crime scene. The hairs on the back of your neck start to stand up and you get this sense of excitement about you that wow, possibly, maybe, we have our individual here.
Peter Jaklevic: We learned that the suspect in the case whose fingerprints matched those found at the crime scene was a Scott Elwood Graham. Mr. Graham was currently at Patton State Hospital in California, which is a mental institution.
And when the police walked into the Patton State Hospital and interviewed him and the first thing out of his mouth was “You’re here to investigate me about some cold case murder, aren’t you?”
Interview: I bet you guys are looking for some murderer. (garbled) That’s exactly what I thought they’re going to try to hang some cold case on me.
Peter Jaklevic: I don’t think he was being paranoid, I think he knew what they were there for because he did it.
In all likelihood he got to that location by riding on that train which we know stopped outside of Stella’s house that evening.
Jerry Disler: Yeah, fingerprints don’t lie. It was him.
His prints were on the base of that lamp. In her house. You going to say you’re a lamp salesman?
News clip: excerptStella’s family said they thought this day would never come. After more than 30 years of waiting and wondering, today there is justice for Stella Lintemuth and her family.
George Pratt: Scott Elwood Graham was brought to trial here in Big Rapids, Mecosta County.
Peter Jaklevic: The trial lasted just six days. And when you have fingerprints that place a person at a crime scene that he’s got no business being at, that really makes the decision for the jury a very easy one. And it didn’t take them long to convict Mr. Graham, they only deliberated for a couple hours.
Ken Lucht: It was a relief to realize that he was the person who did it, and there would be a closure.
Greg Michaud: When the arrest was made of Scott Graham, there was a newspaper clipping out of Big Rapids that was sent to me. I carry that newspaper clipping along with a photograph of Stella Lintemuth with me today to remind me of the significance of the work that we do. If it wasn’t for the IAFIS database, this case probably would go unsolved.
NARRATION: Tap into the power of IAFIS.
To learn more about using IAFIS latent services, go to FBI.gov. To submit for the latent hit of year award, send an e-mail to FBILatentHit@leo.gov.