Expert links prints on auto to suspect in trooper's slaying

June 21, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

A fingerprint expert yesterday linked Eric Joseph Tirado, the man charged with killing state police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf, to a car the trooper stopped for speeding shortly before he was shot to death along Interstate 95 in Jessup.

James R. Simms, supervisor of the state police's fingerprint unit, testified that he lifted the telltale prints from the driver's side door of a stolen 1988 Chevrolet Nova that the trooper had pulled over about 3:30 a.m. March 29, 1990.

Investigators later found the car in Lansdowne, where it had been ditched behind a convenience store. On the door, Mr. Simms said, he found impressions left by the middle, ring and index fingers of Tirado, 27, of the Bronx, N.Y.

"There were 21 points of identification," said Mr. Simms, as he explained to the Howard County Circuit Court jury how the arch, loop and whorl patterns found on fingerprints are unique to each person.

"It was a positive identification," Mr. Simms testified. "They were excellent latent fingerprints."

Mr. Simms also said that he found seven fingerprints outside the car but that only one outside the driver's door could be matched with Tirado's.

The fingerprint expert will continue his testimony Monday, when the trial resumes.

Prosecutors have said that a bloody fingerprint was found near the passenger's side armrest in the getaway car that would be tied to Tirado, but Mr. Simms has yet to address that point.

The state also won a legal point yesterday when Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. dismissed a defense motion seeking to block Baltimore truck driver John Anderson's identification of Tirado as the driver of the Chevrolet.

"There was no evidence of any conduct by the state which would have created the likelihood of a misidentification," Judge Kane said, after police discussed the methods used in showing a photo array of suspects to Mr. Anderson a day after the killing.

Mr. Anderson has yet to testify in front of the jury, but during a pretrial motion he said that as he drove past the Nova in the next lane he saw the driver's face in the spotlight Corporal Wolf had fixed on the car.

Several months later when he saw Tirado on a television news program, Mr. Anderson said, he realized Tirado was the man Corporal Wolf had pulled over.

Defense lawyer Mark Van Bavel has argued that Tirado had been in the car but was not the one who shot Corporal Wolf. Mr. Van Bavel strongly suggested that Tirado's alleged accomplice, Francisco Rodriguez, 22, also of the Bronx, was the one who fired the fatal shots. Rodriguez is to be tried later.

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