Howard County prosecutors are moving methodically to identify Eric Joseph Tirado as the triggerman in the slaying of Maryland State Police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf on March 29, 1990.
James R. Simms, of the State Police crime lab, testified yesterday that he lifted prints of three fingers from the outside of the driver's door of a stolen 1988 Chevrolet Nova found in Lansdowne an hour after Wolf was shot to death.
Wolfe had stopped the car for speeding and was writing a ticket when he was shot, prosecutors said.
"The latent fingerprints lifted from state's exhibit 79B were positively identified by me as being . . . the left ring finger, the left middle finger and the left index finger of Eric Joseph Tirado," Simms said, pointing to Tirado, who was seated next to his attorneys.
The opening days of Tirado's murder trial in Howard County Circuit Court have been marked by detailed testimony about physical evidence linking Tirado to the killing. Under direct questioning from Assistant State's Attorney Michael D. Rexroad, Simms said yesterday that he took prints from inside and outside the car and looked for more on items found inside the vehicle.
The car was abandoned outside a fast-food restaurant in Lansdowne less than an hour after Wolf was found shot to death in his car on Interstate 95 in Jessup at 4 a.m. March 29, 1990.
Prosecutors said Tirado, 27, and Francisco Rodriguez, 21, both of the Bronx, N.Y., had stolen the car in Alexandria, Va., an hour earlier and were headed toward New York City on Interstate 95 when Wolf stopped the car for speeding.
They contend that Wolf ordered Tirado into the front passenger seat of the police car and that the trooper was preparing to write a ticket when Tirado shot him twice in the head.
Rodriguez will be tried separately.
Simms showed the jury an open folder containing an enlarged photograph of a file fingerprint from Tirado's left index finger on one side and a similar-size picture of a latent print on the other. He said the pictures showed that the prints were identical.
"This is, in fact, a positive identification of the number seven [left index] finger of Eric Joseph Tirado," he told the panel.
He suggested that Tirado would have had to stoop or bend to place his fingers in the position near the car's driver-side door handle where the prints were found.
Simms, who is nearly 5 feet 9 inches tall, testified that he could not place his fingers over the prints while standing. Tirado is 5-feet-9.
The fingerprint examiner also said he found in the car pieces of white, yellow, pink and blue papers that are believed to be part of a police officer's citation book. Wolf's citation and warning books both were stolen from his car and their charred remains were found near the car, according to testimony.
Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. recessed the trial until Monday. Rexroad is to continue direct questioning of Simms then, and defense attorney Mark A. Van Bavel is expected to begin cross-examination of the fingerprint expert later that day.