Sheriff working with lab, photographer to develop fingerprint in Lawless case

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Angela Mischelle Lawless

The road to finding Angela Mischelle Lawless' killer continues to be bumpy for Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter and detective Branden Caid.

They haven't hit a dead end though, Caid said Wednesday, just detours in solving the 1992 Benton, Mo., murder.

"It's never the end of the road, there's just always something more to go after," Caid said.

Currently, they're working with a private laboratory and forensic photographer to develop an image of a fingerprint an English scientist lifted from a piece of evidence in the case last year.

The scientist, Dr. John Bond, invented a technique for print detection in 2008. His method involves analyzing the corrosion to a metal surface caused by fingerprint sweat. His technique has been used in up to 100 murder cases in several countries.

"The fact that the print was on a curved surface, they have to buy additional software in order to take the image and flatten it out," Caid said. "We've been trying to help them. In order to get the print ready, they have to have this software."

Once a clear photograph of the print can be developed, the department hopes the fingerprint can be entered into the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification Database. They ultimately hope the print matches one already in the system, Caid said.

A Dutch firm is testing DNA recovered when the crime occurred.

Telephone calls, e-mails and letters addressing the murder continue to flow into the department, too, as Caid and Walter examine how to enter the print into the AFID database.

Caid said Monday he received an encouraging lead from another law enforcement agency. The agency, which Caid didn't want to name, said it was in touch with a person who claims they have a first-hand confession from someone who said they killed Lawless. The department is making arrangements to travel to meet and interview the individuals.

"I'm glad I got information from another government agency that is obviously talking to or has talked to this person," Caid said. "They must have found some sort of credibility in it to call us."

Although many notify the department to share their theories on the case, a good lead still comes in occasionally, according to Caid. But, no matter what the information, Caid still encourages the public to call, e-mail or send a letter if they've got something to share about the Lawless case.

"I don't care how small it is or how unreliable or how much you doubt it's true, I still want to hear it," he said. "I might have the other three-fourths of the story and what they tell me might make perfect sense."

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent Address:

311 S. New Madrid St., Benton, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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