Routine case was like ‘CSI’

Police work is rarely like the movies or “CSI,” but occasionally it is. This week I wanted to share a great example of teamwork, technology and plain old hard work that resulted in a positive outcome for a Kent resident.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Tuesday, March 10, 2009 2:24pm
  • Opinion

Police work is rarely like the movies or “CSI,” but occasionally it is. This week I wanted to share a great example of teamwork, technology and plain old hard work that resulted in a positive outcome for a Kent resident.

First, though, here is a good one: our municipal jail goes through a lot of books, and sometimes we get piles of donated paperbacks to stock and re-stock the jail library shelves. Needless to say, we discourage certain types of literature that may be inappropriate — anything overly graphic, violent or otherwise inappropriate to someone incarcerated. So last week it was profoundly ironic when corrections officer Harvey and I were carrying a couple grocery bags full of paperbacks into the entry area of the jail and one single book fell out: “An Innocent Man.” For the same reason we don’t show “The Shawshank Redemption” on the jail TVs, we chose to set that book aside.

So, back to a case we had that shows how hard work, caring and technology can come together. Last summer, a resident’s home was burglarized. A suspect had entered through an unlocked sliding door, taking a cell phone and a box of checks. Officers Kluzak and Hollis responded, took a report, and didn’t find any fingerprints. End of story, right?

After the officers left, the homeowner found what appeared to be two pieces of fingernails in the carpet. The officers were called back to the scene to take the evidence. The homeowner was also notified that one of the stolen checks had been used at a local grocery store.

Officers obtained the store video and also took it into evidence. The video showed a white female with a ponytail issuing the stolen check at the counter. The plot thickens when Det. Bob Kaufmann gets the case. He called the homeowner, who by now is also getting a list of phone numbers being called on her stolen cell phone.

Kaufmann started calling the numbers provided by the cell-phone company, and found one with a voicemail that mentioned the name “Doris.” The detective had an open burglary case involving a suspect named … Doris.

He obtained the photo of the suspect from the previous burglary, and it matched the video from the grocery store.

Kaufmann, through more legwork, determined that the suspect had DNA on file in the state of Oregon. He submitted the fingernail found in the carpet in the Kent burglary for a comparison to that DNA. The Washington State Crime Lab, which is backed up on cases due to high volume, took six months but does come back with a match on the DNA. Oregon DNA sample, to Kent burglary fingernail in the carpet, 100 percent match.

Kaufmann found out that the suspect was released from the Clackamas County Jail just days before the DNA match came back.

With multiple agencies actively looking for the suspect, her arrest is just a matter of time.

This case could have been considered just a garden-variety burglary, with no evidence and no information to go on, and would result in a closed and unsolved case in many places. However, diligent work and follow up by the homeowner, responding officers and detectives, and the state laboratory came together to bring a different outcome. Once this suspect is arrested and jailed, we will not provide her with a copy of “An Innocent Man.”

Steve Strachan is Kent’s chief of police. Contact him at sstrachan@ci.kent.wa.us, or at 253-856-5800.


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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact thebrunells@msn.com.
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