Latent Hit of the Year 2012
Narrator: 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.
2012—Laura Casey and Doug Herout.
Doug Herout [Detective, Omaha Police Department]: Carroll Bonnet was a 61-year-old male.
Brenda Beadle [Chief Deputy County Attorney, Douglas County]: He worked at Clarkson Hospital and didn’t show up for work for a few days. That’s what brought the attention to him being a missing person.
Herout: And when employees went to check on him, they observed that he was deceased.
Beadle: He was killed in his apartment in downtown Omaha back in 1978.
Michael Stone (retired crime lab technician, Omaha Police Department: I was early in my career I was 28 years old… I was called in to assist with evidence collection and also the latent print processing.
Herout: There was a print on the medicine cabinet, and there was also a print on the rear side of the bathroom door. Within the scene there were other items of evidence that were located. There were towels that were on the floor; there was a garbage can in the living room that had several cigarette butts; there was a trash can in the kitchen that had a Budweiser can; there was a Thrifty Nickel paper that was near the body…
Stone: And there was a note there left by the suspect, kind of a taunting catch-me-if-you-can type note.
Herout: It stated “I’m leaving this crime with only one clue. Find it yourself pig die pig.”
Beadle: Was it a serial killer? There was a lot of different theories about what that could be but they knew they should be looking for a clue for sure.
Herout: But they were never able to identify what that clue was.
Herout: The victim’s vehicle was a 1964 Buick.
Beadle: It was stolen right after the homicide.
Herout: And it was actually located in Cicero, Illinois.
Stone: When his car was discovered up in Cicero, it was though well, maybe we really do have somebody that was more transient, and then took off with his car.
Beadle: And so it appeared to be sort of random.
Stone: In the weeks following, and actually the months and years following there was a lot of prints that we compared. As time went on, no identification.
Herout: And all of their leads came up empty.
Stone: The farther it gets away and the narrower the field of people who know the suspect, the percentage goes down. There’s always exceptions, but in this case, it took a long time.
Herout: The Omaha cold case unit was opened in March 2008.
Laura Casey: The cold case unit put in a request to the crime lab to have any fingerprints in this case be searched through the Nebraska AFIS as well as the IAFIS system.
Casey: There was one print that caught my eye. It had several unique characteristics to it. It was from the inside surface of the bathroom door.
Stone: And I remember that print because over the years I looked at that print a lot of times. I’d done countless comparisons myself on that print.
Casey: I used that same very good quality print and entered it into IAFIS and when I first got that hit I yelled to my co-workers “I think I have a hit on this cold case!”
Casey: I got the hardcopy of the fingerprints from the FBI. I did re-compare the crime scene latent to the fingerprints, determined that yes it was an identification. It had Mike Stone’s initials on the back of the lift so I immediately knew he had been the one to develop it.
Stone: She said “Hey, I identified a print from Carrol Bonnet.” It’s like what?
Casey: He was just stunned. It was shocking.
Stone: I mean, if I had hair it would have stood up. There’s cases in everybody’s career that you always hope would be solved. And that was one of them for me that I always hoped would be solved. And I thought well, here’s the beginning of it.
Beadle: When Laura got the name of Jerry Watson through the IAFIS hit, that started the ball rolling.
Stone: That gave the detectives someone to look for someone to start talking to, someone to start breaking down this case.
Herout: I began looking for Jerry Watson.
Beadle: It was a lot of work to build a case on this.
Stone: Doug is like a dog on a bone. He gets the information and away he goes and he doesn’t let it go.
Herout: I noted that he lived in Cicero Illinois when he was younger; he was incarcerated in Missouri at one point and he was incarcerated in Florida; we were able to put a timeline together of his life, basically.
Beadle: We need to determine when and if it was possible that he was in Omaha during that time.
Herout: Jerry Watson? I’m Doug Herout, how are you doing?
Casey: When Doug located him, he was in prison in Illinois for burglary.
Herout: Think about the areas you might have gone after ’77…
Jerry Watson: I came to Omaha…
Herout: I was able to identify that he had lived in Omaha, but never gave the statement that he committed the crime.
Watson: I know that you can’t have evidence that said I did it. You know? ‘Cause I know I didn’t do that, you know?
Herout: At the end of the interview I was able to get a DNA swab, as well as a set of fingerprints and palm prints to compare with the evidence we had back at the scene.
Steve Vaccaro [criminalist, Omaha Police Department]: Basically the evidence had been sitting in our evidence property room in storage since the original crime.
Casey: We started out photographing it as it was packaged; we wanted to show what condition it was in after 30 years.
Vaccaro: The process is to use an alternate light source after it’s photographed. What we’re trying to look for is some reaction to semen, sweat, something of that nature. And we’re looking for any hair fibers or material fibers that are on that item.
Casey: Steve Vaccaro found a hair.
Vaccaro: The DNA that was present in the root was preserved.
Beadle: So the DNA obviously became a huge part of this case.
Herout: We were able to get the cigarette butts from the Cicero car, which we were able to get a full profile off of matching Jerry Watson; from the scene there were cigarette butts that we got a full profile of matching Jerry Watson; the beer can was a full profile matching Jerry Watson; and the hairs were a partial profile, but enough of a profile that we were able to say this is Jerry Watson.
Casey: And we ID’d one more print from the crime scene to Jerry Watson which was a palm print from the medicine cabinet.
Stone: We had the note that said he left the crime with a clue, and find it if you can, pig. So after all these years we’re wondering, what’s this clue? What’s this clue?
Herout: I went down and I went through every piece of property, and I saw there were three papers collected. There was an Omaha World Herald, a Thrifty Nickel, and another ad. As I set the paper down I see blue ink on the edge of the paper. And in cursive writing it said Jerry W. and then it was crossed off. That piece of paper was left right next to the body.
Stone: So he just thought “these guys are idiots, I’ll go ahead and write my name on here, scratch it out, they’ll never find it.” Well, Doug found it.
Herout: He was a 19-year-old in October of 1978. And Jerry Watson was 51 years old at the time of trial.
TV newscaster: One of Omaha’s oldest cold cases gets its day in court. Jerry Watson is charged with first degree murder.
Beadle: The trial itself lasted about a week and a half, and I think deliberations lasted just a few hours. The result was guilty of first degree murder.
Stone: That was pretty rewarding. It was Omaha’s oldest cold case that was solved.
Beadle: Obviously if we don’t have that one print from IAFIS that Laura Casey finds, we don’t have a case.
Stone: Technology had to catch up with the evidence that we had.
Herout: And we were able to find a murderer who for thirty years thought he had gotten away with it.
Stone: IAFIS provided the instrument, but Laura provided the expertise.
Casey: It’s gonna be I’m sure the most memorable case of my career.
Herout: This case took a ton of teamwork.
Vaccaro: When it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing.
Narrator: 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.