Criminal Justice

Better fingerprint technology led to arrest in 1997 murder case

Upgraded fingerprint technology by the FBI led to a suspect in the 1997 death of an Illinois teen.

Oklahoma’s State Bureau of Investigation began running older fingerprints through the new system last year as part of a cold case project, the Chicago Tribune reports. The investigators found matching fingerprints in 17 or 95 cases, according to Meghan Jones, a technical manager at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

In the Illinois case, police charged James Eaton of Palatine, Ill., in the death of 14-year-old Amber Creek after an Oklahoma investigator found a fingerprint match, the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times reported in prior stories.

Creek’s body was found with a plastic bag wrapped around her head in Racine County, Wis., in 1997. Racine County had sent fingerprint samples from the plastic bag to law enforcement agencies in 49 states. Oklahoma investigators ran the prints through the system and found a match for Eaton, whose prints were on file for a minor offense.

After the fingerprint match, investigators took the butt of a cigarette used by Eaton at a Chicago-area train station and found the DNA matched DNA on Creek’s body, Racine County police said.

Jones told the Tribune that Oklahoma cold case investigators also found a match for a possible suspect in a 1970 homicide and for three homicides dating back to 1978.

The FBI has made its upgraded fingerprint technology to all law enforcement agencies, but not every state is using it, the Tribune says.

Hat tip to ISBA Legal News.

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