2016 Biometric Identification Award

The FBI’s 2016 Biometric Identification Award recipient is the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Bernardino, CA, for its role in identifying the individuals responsible for a 1991 murder.


Video Transcript

[Music]

Narrator: The FBI Biometric Identification Award is presented to an outstanding law enforcement officer or agency for their efforts in solving major cases through the use of the Next Generation Identification or NGI System. The 2016 Biometric Identification Award is presented to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Bernardino, California.

Detective Michael Cleary: On Tuesday 7, 1991, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department responded to a hotel in the city of Victorville in reference to a dead body that had been located in one of the hotel rooms by a housekeeper. Once San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies arrive on scene, the victim was located underneath the mattress in the hotel room. The victim also had a towel wrapped around his neck. The victim later identified as John Miller. The towel was collected and preserved in evidence. It was also determined that Miller’s vehicle was missing from that location. Two days later, the Pomona Police Department located the vehicle in the city of Pomona and contacted the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. A detective from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department homicide detail, along with a crime scene specialist, responded to the scene to process that vehicle. During the processing of that vehicle, a single latent print was located on the driver’s side side-view mirror. That print was processed through all latent print databases and no match was located. At that point, the case went cold.

Sergeant Greg Myler: In April of 2008, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department created a cold case team. The cold case was comprised of two homicide detectives and one deputy district attorney from the San Bernardino County DA’s office. Cold case team members asked for the assistance of other divisions to include CAL-ID.

Supervisory Fingerprint Examiner James Nursell: We received the request from our cold case unit in 2010 to reexamine the evidence and that’s when I assigned the case to Leticia Otey. She again ran the prints from the mirror through the local AFIS, California Department of Justice LASO and did not get a hit. So Lettie conducted a search of the FBI’s NGI Database with the prints from the mirror. She received what appeared to be likely a match. So at that point she contacted the FBI to receive a set of the known prints and then she did a manual comparison between the crime scene print and the known prints from the FBI. They determined that the prints belonged to Michael Arrowood.

Myler: In September of 2010, my partner and I were out conducting interviews in the midwest and east coast on homicide cold cases. One of the interviews we were tasked with was the interview of Michael Arrowood who was living in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

[Knocks on door] Hi, Michael

Michael Arrowood: Yes?

Myler: I’m Greg Myler.

Michael Arrowood: Hi.

Myler: We’re detectives from San Bernardino County, California.

Arrowood: Okay.

Myler: Do you know where that’s at?

Arrowood: No.

Myler: Alright. We work for the sheriff’s department out there. Your last name?

Arrowood: Arrowood.

Myler: Arrowood? Okay. We work in a homicide division and we investigate cold homicides.

Arrowood: Uh-huh.

Myler: And we’re looking into a 1991 homicide and we think you may know the person who was killed.

My partner and I escorted Michael out of a picnic bench that was next to his house. During the course of our three hour interview with him, eventually Michael began to talk about the details regarding what happened in that motel in 1991.

Arrowood: I didn’t do it though.

Myler: Okay. We also got your fingerprint of that truck I just showed you right there. If you didn’t do it and he did it, we don’t want to see you get in trouble for this. We can work with the truth, Michael.

Arrowood: It was Chris.

Myler: Michael told us that he and his brother Chris Arrowood had traveled from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Arrowood: The damn van tore up or something and we had to sell the van.

Myler: When their vehicle broke down, they had no other means of transportation to finish their trip to California. So they decided to hitchhike. He told me that while hitchhiking, a white male adult had picked them up in a pickup truck and had driven them to an area closer to Los Angeles.

[Music]

After the victim picked ‘em up and took them to San Bernardino County, they were taken back to his motel room in the city of Victorville. While in the motel room, it was there where Chris decided he wanted to rob Miller for the money that was in his room.

Arrowood: I was sitting on the floor cross-legged eating and next thing I know Chris come up from behind him and had a...I think it was a towel or something...and came up behind him and started choking him and [unintelligible] “What are you doing?” and I was struggling with him and he said, “Don’t worry I’m just going to knock him out. Just gonna put him out.” And afterwards Chris ran back to where the money was and got it and then that guy, he didn’t look good. He was no longer.

Myler: After they hid John’s body, they felt that they needed to get out of the area. They grabbed John’s car keys, went into the parking lot and left in John’s car. After conducting all of our interviews and gathering all of our physical evidence, we sat down with the Deputy District Attorney from the San Bernardino County DA’s office and during that meeting we presented them our case with the information that we had as well as physical evidence and asked for a murder warrant to be filed on both individuals for the murder of John Miller.

Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum: Upon reviewing the interview provided by Michael Arrowood, we asked that the towel used to strangle John Miller be tested for DNA so we could confirm Michael’s story. The DNA did come back as touch DNA belonging to Chris Arrowood. Michael and Chris were extradited from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to San Bernardino County, California to stand trial for the murder of John Miller. Prior to trial, Michael pled guilty and as part of his plea agreement of 12 years, he agreed to testify against his brother Chris. A jury found Chris Arrowood guilty of first degree murder. He was sentenced in October 2014 to 25 years to life and his case has been affirmed by the California Court of Appeals. Often cold cases, the victims don’t know the person that murders them. Without a fingerprint of Michael found on that mirror of the truck, the case would have never been solved because there was no connection between Michal, Chris, and Mr. Miller.

Nursall: The most inconsequential piece of evidence that normally a fingerprint on the outside of a car means very little and that was the piece right there that solved the whole case.

Yoakum: It’s always great to let a family know what happened. These families have been waiting for years to find out what happened to their loved ones. For every cold case, there’s a victim without justice and a family without answers.

Fingerprint Examiner Leticia Otey: I didn’t know where it was gonna lead to but when I heard down the line that somebody was going to be arrested, I mean that, it feels good.

Narrator: Tap into the power of NGI. To learn more about using NGI services, go to www.fbi.gov. To submit for the biometric identification award, send an email to biometrichit@leo.gov.

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