The One with the Fingerprints

The One with the Fingerprints

1892. The United States is having a large influx of immigrants coming from Europe through Ellis Island. Some Naismith guy invented a game with peach baskets and "basketball" is becoming ever so popular. Here in Buenos Aires? We are one of the 10 largest economies in the world, have a growing railway system, and made it through a nasty yellow fever epidemic recently.

In local news, you must have heard about Officer Juan Vucetich and his way to solve mystery cases? No? Well sit down and I’ll fill you in.

Obviously you know that people have fingerprints. The ancient Babylonians, Japanese, and Chinese have used them as forms of identification for years. Outside of the legal and artistic realms, we haven’t messed too much with them. Well, that was until Officer Vucetich established the first fingerprinting bureau. 

In the town of Necochea about 350 miles outside of Buenos Aires, Officer Vucetich sent Inspector Eduardo Alvarez to investigate the murder of two small children. The mother, Francisca Rojas, was hurt pretty badly in her home as well and accused the next door neighbor of killing her kids. Nothing worked to get a confession out of the man and he had an alibi with neighborhood friends, so Alvarez started searching for fingerprints in the days old crime scene. While searching the home, stamped on a doorframe, he found one bloody fingerprint. Alvarez sent part of the door frame, the fingerprints of both the neighbor and Francisca, and a letter back to Buenos Aires. 

 Francisca Rojas' fingerprints Source: Dirección Museo Policial–Ministerio de Seguridad de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Francisca Rojas' fingerprints
Source: Dirección Museo Policial–Ministerio de Seguridad de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Alvarez detailed his findings, including his speculation that the fingerprint found did not correspond to the neighbor, but to Francisca Rojas herself! Confronted with the evidence, she confessed to murdering her kids and that was that. What this means for forensic science and law enforcement around the world, who knows? But one thing that we can know for certain is that criminals in Argentina are a little less safe when Officer Vucetich and his fingerprinting bureau are on the case! 

Like sand through a No. 4 sieve, so are the days of our labs. 

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