A bloody fingerprint found inside the car ditched by suspects in the murder of a Maryland state trooper in March 1990 belonged to Eric Joseph Tirado, a state police fingerprint expert testified yesterday.
James R. Simms, the expert, told a Howard County Circuit Court jury that one of two prints found inside the well of the arm rest on the light blue Chevrolet Nova was left by Tirado's right ring finger. The print next to it was from a right, middle finger, Mr. Simms added. But it was not clear enough to identify.
The fingerprint expert said he believed, however, that "the prints were left by the same person at the same time."
The testimony is pivotal to the state's case against the 27-year-old Tirado, a native of the Bronx, N.Y. He is accused of shooting Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf twice at close range while he sat in the trooper's car on the side of Interstate 95 after he was stopped about 3:30 a.m. March 29, 1990.
During his opening statements, prosecutor Michael D. Rexroad told the jury that expert witnesses will also show that the blood bearing the fingerprint was Corporal Wolf's. A blood expert is expected to testify later in the trial, now in its second week.
Mr. Simms also identified three fingerprints on a shopping bag in the rear of the car, and three others on driver's side door as Tirado's.
He testified that Tirado's co-defendant, 22-year-old Francisco Rodriguez of the Bronx, N.Y., had left his fingerprints on papers in the car. Rodriguez will be tried separately.
In other testimony yesterday, Dorothy R. Augustine, a 21-year-old legal secretary from Alexandria, Va., said she owned the Chevrolet Nova that was stolen from outside her apartment between the evening of March 28, 1990, and 7 a.m. the next day.
She said a pink umbrella found behind a delicatessen in Lansdowne where the car was ditched had been on the floor of her car's back seat.
According to prosecutors, who will seek the death penalty if Tirado is convicted, several drivers who passed the murder scene will be testifying in the next several days.