AFIS identifies child abuse suspect
03 April 2018 13:31 GMT

The Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Austin has identified a child abuse suspect from a fingerprint taken from just a photograph of his fingers.

An image was sent to latent prints section Supervisor Meghan Blackburn from an active child pornography investigation.

The suspect had captured a very clear image of his fingers that showed stunning details of his fingerprints, reported Ksat 12.

"We knew we had to do something. We couldn't just send it back and say we can't do anything," Jenny Hall, the Latent Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) supervisor said. "There was a child in immediate danger and it had to be stopped. I knew that if I identified this print I knew I was identifying the person committing the offense because his hand was in there."

Before they could get to that point Blackburn had to do some work on the image.

Typically the prints they work with are photographed by crime scene technicians and include a measurement scale that helps them calibrate and process the print so it can be entered in the AFIS program.

Blackburn had to create a scale from scratch.

"We just asked the question: What is the average length of a man's hand? And we were provided a figure based on our research of 7.44 inches. From the base of the palm to the middle finger half of that measurement is the palm itself," Blackburn explained. "We don't have the palm itself but we do have the joints of the finger, at least the distal joint, which we consider the fingerprint itself. So looking at our own hands we can approximate that each of those joints is about a third of that remaining distance so 3.77 inches and then we divided that into thirds for each of those joints and we're able to draw from the base here to the tip of the finger and then put in that one-third number as our scale."

With the scale in place, Blackburn used a program to process the image further, bringing out more details of the ridges. She then turned the processed image over to Hall.

"I take a closer look and I actually go through and trace each ridge and plot all the minutia that I see," Hall said. "You want to mark as many as you can but a latent is a partial print so there's sometimes you're going to have eight (points) or you could have 50 sometimes. I marked quite a bit in this."

Hall then entered the prints into the state's AFIS program to search it against known fingerprints on file in the statewide database. Unfortunately she didn't get any matches so she then entered the prints into the FBI's nationwide AFIS program and left for the day.

Hall came to the office early the next morning and pulled up the search which came back with 20 possible candidates as matches.
"It took me less than 60 seconds to know that I had a match. I knew right away just based on the first candidate, looking at the points that I had marked and the points that I was looking for in that known print, that I had a match," Hall said.

The prints belonged to Georgia resident Robert Bossick Jr.