October 24, 2017
Two State Agencies Use NGI to Help Crack Cases, Receive Biometric Identification Awards
Part 2: Oklahoma SBI Recognized for Efforts in the Identification and Prosecution of Offender in 17-Year-Old Cold Case
The FBI recently awarded two employees of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) the Biometric Identification Award for their use of the FBI’s NGI System to help capture a murder suspect. Biometric Services Section Chief William G. McKinsey of the FBI’s CJIS Division presented the award to Technical Manager Meghan Jones and Latent Print Examiner Stacy Hirschman, both with the Latent Evidence Unit of the Oklahoma SBI Laboratory in Edmond.
The SBI’s resubmission of latent fingerprints from a cold case to the FBI proved successful when the new search returned a viable suspect in 2014. Three years later, the suspect was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for the intentional homicide of a child 20 years ago.
On February 9, 1997, the body of an unidentified child was found in Burlington, Wisconsin. Investigators processed the crime scene and recovered latent fingerprints from a plastic bag around the victim’s head. A search of the latent fingerprints against the Wisconsin Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) yielded negative results. In May 1997, the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Racine County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin requested that the Oklahoma SBI search the latent fingerprints against their state AFIS and the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System; however, both produced negative results. With no investigative leads, the case went cold.
Using dental records, officials identified the victim the following year. The 14-year-old-girl had been a ward of the state of Illinois and had run away from a juvenile center. She was not reported missing until five weeks after her disappearance. A couple of weeks after she ran away, an unidentified body was discovered and was later identified as the missing girl.
On February 28, 2014, the Oklahoma SBI searched the latent prints recovered from the crime scene against the FBI’s NGI System as part of the Latent Cold Case Project. The search produced viable candidates for comparison purposes, resulting in a new investigative lead. Authorities established surveillance of the primary suspect and collected one of the suspect’s discarded cigarettes from which they retrieved a DNA sample. Subsequently, the Wisconsin Department of Justice positively identified the sample with that recovered from the victim. Law enforcement arrested the suspect on April 8, 2014, and charged him with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse. On October 25, 2016, James Eaton pleaded no contest to reckless homicide in the death of the female juvenile. On January 20, 2017, Eaton received the 40-year maximum sentence.
Each year, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division presents the Biometric Identification Award to recognize the outstanding members of local and state law enforcement who use the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System to solve major cases. This year, two state agencies received the award for their resourceful use of the system: the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). In this two-part series, we feature the award winners and highlight how NGI helped crack their cases.