Latent Hit of the Year 2009
A 30-year-old Florida murder case is solved. 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.
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.
In October of 1978 our officers were dispatched to a call based on a UPS driver actually delivering a package and seeing the victim lying in the living room.
Items of significant value to the family had been stolen, the television set had been left on, and the victim’s vehicle had actually been stolen, and there was a backpack left in the garage next to where the vehicle had been stolen from.
Well I was 19 years old when it happened. My mom had passed away about 10 years before that. So he was really the only parent I had grown up with.
During the 70s Sarasota didn’t have anywhere near the violent crime we have today, and this was a huge deal in the 70s. It got a lot of media attention up and down the sun coast.
The case was worked on actively for roughly two years. And generally a case is considered cold when we have no further leads to follow up on.
I had lost hope that it would be resolved. I think the thing had dragged on so long that I really didn’t see if it would ever end.
I got the case in August of 2008. Prior to me having that case, about a half a dozen other detectives handled it over the last 30 years.
We began going through an evidence review process where we pulled all of our files. It was learned that our agency had not yet run any of the fingerprints that had been collected in 1978 through IAFIS. So I contacted Jocelyn Masten to ensure that took place.
The first thing that I would do is look at all the latent cards. And there were hundreds of latent cards in this case.
The one print I zeroed in on was a latent print off a television knob.
And it was very clear, even after 30 years, it was on a lift card, and I was pretty excited about the quality of the print.
As I entered it I went away from the computer because I figured it would take a while.
And I came back probably a half hour later and the latent search had come back already. And the first one was an ID.
Of course I examined it very carefully, my heart pounding, because it was quite exciting.
And she came down and said “We’ve got a hit. We’ve got a hit off the television.”
We had no idea who Kenneth Auringer was. His name had never been brought up in the case before.
We did a records check on this individual, and found he had actually bounced between Florida, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and ultimately out to California.
My name is Detective Robinson, I’ve got to read you your rights.
Obviously it’s a very tense time period leading up to attempting to interview a suspect, especially a suspect from a case that’s 31 years old.
Do you know this gentleman?
Didn’t remember the 70s, doesn’t know where he was, has no idea…
Doesn’t look familiar.
We showed him pictures of the victim, doesn’t know the victim, doesn’t live with the victim, wasn’t friends with the victim, show him pictures of the crime scene, never been there, don’t know what you’re talking about.
And then in the packet of the photos that we had from the crime scene was the backpack.
Does this look familiar to you?
My backpack! That was my old backpack!
When he said that I nearly fell out of my chair. I just couldn’t believe he had actually just basically put himself at the scene of the murder.
We begin tonight with a cold case that detectives have finally solved more than three decades after the crime…
After 31 years of waiting for this case to come to court, it was prosecuted in one week.
The fingerprint evidence was the most important evidence in the case, in my opinion, because it’s much more easy for jurors to understand and digest than DNA evidence.
It took them only about three hours, if that, to make a decision and find him guilty.
We never would have known it was him until it was actually entered into that database, and we got that hit back from California.
What makes me proud is that I participated and had a small part in hopefully helping a family come to terms with what happened.
The fact that he’s now behind bars for the rest of his life definitely is more resolution than I ever thought we’d have.
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