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How Delray Beach police use fingerprint technology to solve crimes

Posted at 11:41 AM, Nov 13, 2019

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — A 20-year-old cold case in Delray Beach was solved with one piece of evidence: a fingerprint.

Police said Todd Barket murdered Sondra Better in 1998 at a consignment shop. Barket is now behind bars for life, and police credit old clues and a job application for the arrest.

"This is the only case Delray has ever had that forensics has completely solved the case," said Crime Scene Supervisor David Ackerman.

Ackerman said a decorative ball with fingerprints is what helped solve the cold case. Last December, the police department was notified that a fingerprint matched their evidence.

"Without that fingerprint, we would have never solved this case," said Ackerman.

Police said Barket had applied for a job near Tampa, and he provided fingerprints with his application. His prints were added to the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, and the match was made.

Latent Print Examiner Thomas Tustin said millions of prints are in AFIS, which is technology he uses every day.

Tustin was the Crime Scene Supervisor in 1998, and said he never gave up hope the case would be solved.

"If he never applied for that job, it would still be an unsolved case to this day," said Tustin.

Ackerman said fingerprints are important evidence to find during property crimes, like car burglaries.

"If we get a fingerprint, it is the best inside of a car," Ackerman explained. "If it's outside of a car, it is an investigative lead."

This year, the Delray Beach Police Department bought a new fuming chamber, a tool used to help make prints more visible with superglue.

"It could be a gun, it could be a knife, anything that has the potential for later prints on there," said Ackerman.

Ackerman added that finding prints helps link a person to a location and gives detectives a lead to solve a crime.