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Rarely used digital fingerprint system leads to Fort Thomas man's guilty plea in sex abuse case

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Posted at 10:46 AM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-04 10:46:39-04

FORT THOMAS, Ky. -- It's not that unusual for a father to accidentally get his finger in the way of a cellphone photo, but this instance led to a man pleading guilty to sex abuse charges.

A rarely used technique to identify fingerprints in digital photos led to a Fort Thomas man's guilty plea on April 28. He received a 27-year prison sentence.

Only three other criminal cases exist in the United States that have used the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to identify a suspect.

The investigation began in January when Fort Thomas Police Det. Adam Noe contacted Paul Dorman, Kentucky State Police Forensic Latent Examiner Supervisor, in reference to a sex abuse case. The case involved a young girl who reported that her stepfather had sexually assaulted her and had taken photographs of the assaults.

Noe requested and received a search warrant to recover the suspect’s cellphone and other electronic devices, which revealed a large number of images that depicted what the victim had reported. While reviewing this photographic evidence, Noe noted that the suspect's face wasn't pictured, but his fingers were shown in "incredible detail."

Noe brought the images to KSP’s lab in Frankfort where Forensic Latent Fingerprint Analyst Fred Crane used a computer to isolate the fingerprints shown in the photos. Several of the sexually exploitive photographs depicted the ridges of the photographer’s fingers and finger joints.

Crane and fellow fingerprint analyst Keith Dollinger assisted Noe in obtaining a search warrant to collect inked fingerprints and palm prints and detailed photos of the suspect’s hands. 

“They examined the photographic images taken as part of the search warrant and the original case images and were able to identify the suspect as being the person in both photographs,” Dorman said.