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Power of Physical Evidence: A Capital Murder Case Study

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 42 Issue: 2 Dated: (March/April 1992) Pages: 79-83
N Tiller; T Tiller
Date Published
5 pages
In 1990, the Police Forensic Unit in Henrico County, Virginia was called to investigate a homicide involving the sexual assault and stabbing of a 22-year-old female.
After an intensive crime scene search, little significant evidence had been collected; the only promising evidence was a pillow case, located near the victim's body, on which several bloodstains were displayed. One stain showed some ridge detail, but it was faint and barely visible to even the trained eye. The pillow case was taken to Henrico County's Forensic Unit where the primary focus was on bloodstain pattern analysis. This analysis found that several stains were consistent with a contact transfer of blood deposited by a knife blade and that fingerprint detail appeared to have at least some potential for identification. The evidence was taken to the Virginia Division of Forensic Science and processed with a relatively new chemical similar to nin-hydrin,1,8-Diazaflouren-9-one (DFO). The best DFO photograph was taken to Hunter Graphic Information Systems in Charlotte, North Carolina. Processing with image enhancement equipment proved successful, and a print sufficient for identification was obtained. During the postmortem examination, seminal fluid had been recovered from the victim's leg. The preliminary serological report was consistent with the prime suspect, the victim's next door neighbor, and the blood type placed him in less than 5 percent of the general population. A warrant was issued based solely on the known serological results. In April 1991, faced with overwhelming physical evidence of an image-enhanced fingerprint identification in the victim's blood, matching DNA of body fluid found on the victim's body, and the knife found in the suspect's apartment, defense attorneys successfully prosecuted the suspect for capital murder. 3 figures