Latent Hit of the Year 2013
Every year, our Criminal Justice Information Services Division gives its Latent Hit of the Year Award to latent print examiners and/or law enforcement officers who solve a major violent crime using the Bureau’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS.
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 NGI database.
[Shown on the screet are photos of the 2013 Latent Hit of the Year Award recipient—San Bernardino Police Department Detective John Munoz, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Fingerprint Examiner Jim Nursall, and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Identification Technician Randy Beasley.]
John Munoz: I can remember the day like it was yesterday. It was December 2, 1999. We’d received a call of a man down in his jewelry store. It turned out that the victim was a 74-year-old male who was a retired school teacher within the city of San Bernardino. He opened up his own jewelry store. His shop is in a small strip mall in the city of San Bernardino in a strip mall called the Flowerland Shopping Center. [The caller] knocked on the door, she didn't receive a response from my victim and then peers in through the window and can see the victim laying on the floor motionless. She thought that maybe he had some kind of medical issue or something so she dialed 911. The paramedics arrived. Some officers that were nearby the scene also arrived.
The thing about this was that the front door was locked so we had to gain access from another building and it was a brutal type murder. Immediately they backed out and we were summoned to the scene. We came in to survey the scene. We noticed that not only did we have a crime scene in the victim’s office, there was a trail of blood that led from the victim’s office into the adjoining buildings. There was a trail that led into the bathroom and when we went into the bathroom we could see that there were paper towels with blood on them. The toilet water was bloody and some of the paper towels were in the wastepaper basket. We could tell right away that the victim was stabbed and that there had been a struggle. We thought that maybe the suspect had cut himself and was trying to clean himself up, so he left the blood in the toilet and the bloody paper towels in the wastepaper basket. There was one particular room that hadn't been checked yet and it was locked. Now in order for us to get into it, we had to take the hinges off the door in order to gain access into this particular room. There we found more blood on the floor. This, we determined, now was going to be our point of exit. So what we did was we solicited the help of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the crime lab.
Randy Beasley: I was called for a homicide that actually happened in the city limits of San Bernardino, California. We respond for crime scenes when they are more complicated to help our local police department. As the sheriff’s crime lab, we responded to assist the homicide detectives with the investigation that had occurred at this jewelry store. So upon arrival at the jewelry store, the victim’s body was still at the scene. It was in a back room near the safe at this location. I was assigned to look at the blood stain patterns in an attempt to analyze what took place, to do crime scene reconstruction as far as how the homicide occurred, and a coworker was looking for evidence to put together including physical evidence, fingerprint evidence, possible shoe print evidence. There was a palm print in blood on the victim’s face where his throat had been slit that no one had observed yet, so that was the first big opportunity for us to look at something that would solve this case, if we found a suspect—we photographed that print. We actually found a catalog of diamonds. There were several items on a glass countertop at the crime scene—those items were collected. It was processed in the crime lab. We had some prints that came back to someone that had been at the building years before, ended up not being the suspect. So we had a lot of dead ends in the investigation as we continued to process the evidence over weeks. But the particular catalog for the jewelry...and so we processed every page of the catalog,. That’s when we got the print. So once we collected and photographed the latent print, we submitted it to our local CAL-ID sheriff’s forensic examiner.
Jim Nursall: By the end of the day, crime scene specialist Randy Beasley started bringing in some of the latent print evidence that he had initially got at the crime scene. By the end of—I think—two or three days, I had about 87 pieces of evidence to look at. The majority of the latent prints were actually very, very good latent print evidence, as Randy’s known for doing that. Quite a few really good IAFIS quality prints, ran some of the prints through our local AFIS as well as DOJ and also WIN (the Western Identification Network). Simultaneously Detective John Munoz, who was the case agent, started providing me with names of potential suspects who may have been involved. Any case like that you start out, there’s a lot of anticipation—you think you're gonna solve this thing right then and there and had no luck in the first week. By the end of the first month, I’d compared the majority of those latent prints to over 35 subjects, including the victim, and I'd identified a single print to the victim and that was it. That’s when things…you start to get a little bit frustrated and start to get discouraged because you're not having a lot of luck.
Over the next 12 months, John would bring me probably another 35 names. I think we compared 76 people total without any luck. You put a lot of effort and a lot of energy into trying to solve these things and after almost two years I was just burned out, you know. I would go back through it at times and just re-examine because you know maybe my eyes were tired that day and maybe I missed something and you start second guessing yourself and then you realize all along—no, I didn't miss anything. The guy didn’t exist in our system and John wasn't getting…he had tons of leads coming from everybody.
In September of 2001, my lieutenant handed me a box with some equipment in it from the FBI and some software called ULW. First thing I did was I went and grabbed the Marshall Adams case and I pulled out the best print in there, which was from diamond catalog. Searched it, marked it up, and then sent it off to the FBI. A few hours later, get an e-mail response back, started going through the candidates and the second candidate looked pretty promising. And before the day was over, we had identified that single impression which was a powder lift off of a diamond catalog to Jad Salem.
John Munoz: And I was bringing Jim all this information because I needed to keep stirring the pot. I didn't want to let this case go cold, because if I did, then we'd never solve it. So Jim calls me and tells me about this hit and I'm going, ok, all right, whatever Jim, where do I go? And he told me that he had a hit on this young Jordanian male who did not have a record. He’s 19-years-old and he gave me an address of where he’s living. And then he also explained how he was stopped 16 days after the murder. So yeah, once he told me about the guy and an address, me and my partner went directly to the house, knocked on the door. He came down all groggy-eyed because it was only like about 10 o’clock in the morning or 11 o’clock in the morning and when I explained to him what I was doing, you could, it was obvious that he became nervous and he was getting nervous. But i told him, look, all I've got is your thumbprint on a jewelry catalog. That doesn't mean you had anything to do with this poor man’s murder. All it means is you were there in the office and I need to talk to you about that, but before I do I need to get a set of your fingerprints and roll your palm prints. He was kind of hemming and hawing, but eventually he did submit to it.
We took those to Jim Nursall and wasn't within a matter of an hour that he told me that we had a positive hit on the palm print. So I arrested Jad Salem. I brought him to the police department and he refused to waive his rights and that was it. So we went to trial on it. Halfway through the trial, Jad Salem said that he didn't want to hear anymore of this. He didn't want to put his family through this and he didn't want to put the victim’s family through this any more so he said just give me what I deserve and let’s be done with it.
[Shown on the screen: Caption reading “Jad Salem received 32 years and 8 months in prison”]
Munoz: It was a stressful year and 10 months because I didn't know, not until Jim called me with that hit from the IAFIS system and it was a very rewarding moment for me and for Jim. And I'm very glad that we have the opportunity to talk about it and to receive this award. It’s very gratifying.
Narrator: Tap into the power of NGI. To learn more about using IAFIS latent services, go to www.fbi.gov. To submit for the Latent Hit of the Year award, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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