Sometimes, investigators have the unpleasant task of identifying a body that’s not in the best of conditions. Decomposition, animal scavengers, and even murderers can often alter a body’s condition so much that a visual ID is impossible. In those situations, fingerprinting the deceased may be the best method available for learning the victim’s name.
(Keep in mind, the following procedures and techniques are normally performed in the morgue by the coroner or medical examiner, not police detectives).
Occasionally, all that’s needed is a standard ink pad and ten-print card (above). Other times, the joints are rigid and unbendable, so investigators must use finger straighteners to help unclasp the digits.
Horizontal ink rollers are easier to use on the fingers of the dead than the standard vertical ones.
Investigators use printing spoons and fingerprint card strips to print the fingers of the dead. (Photo – FBI)
Single-digit, pre-inked pads are more convenient than the standard pads normally used where investigators roll ink onto a large, hand-size pad.
Flesh is often decomposed, or too soft, to take a print; therefore, investigators inject a solution called tissue builder into the fingertips to make the skin firm enough to print.
Tissue building kit.
Sometimes, the fingers are too badly twisted, or they’re clasped too tightly together to take a print, so investigators remove them from the hand. To do this they use bone snips.
When all else fails, investigators cut off the stiff finger, strip the skin away from the bone, and place the fingertip skin over the end of their own finger. Then they apply ink to the tiny “glove” and press it to a fingerprint card. A perfect print!
To recover prints from the body of a murder victim, investigators can perform standard brushing techniques with magnetic or other powders. They can also place the entire body in a plastic tent and fume it with Superglue just like they would with any other piece of evidence.
As a follow-up to Superglue-fuming, here’s a video that shows just how easy the process really is. Anyone can do it.
*On Monday, The Graveyard Shift is pleased to have guest blogger, Lieutenant Dave Swords (ret.) of the Springfield, Ohio Police Department. Lt. Swords is a thirty year veteran who spent over half his career as an investigator working a variety of cases, including armed robberies and murder.
Dave’s blog topic – Search and Seizure. Please stop by and take advantage of the opportunity to have your questions answered by a police lieutentant.