Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

LA Forensics: The Chinatown Widow

Can Forensics Solve the Case?

Back in 1982, DNA forensic technology was not in existence and neither was a fingerprint database that provided the names of suspects. All forensic scientists could hope for would be to obtain a blood type from any body fluids and manually compare fingerprints with any potential suspects.

Closeup of White Droplets Found on Carpet
Closeup of White Droplets Found on Carpet

Forensic examiners arrived around midnight and began collecting evidence. They shaved off the carpet fibers containing the apparent semen and blood spatter and bagged up the bedspread.

At the foot of the bed, they collected panties with a white and red stain, a pair of green pants, red socks, and seven buttons. A blue tissue paper containing blood was collected near the sliding glass door, as were the phone cords. The blood spatter at the scene came from the victim and not the killer.

In John's room, they found a fingerprint on the piggy bank and a box containing a stethoscope. But the best evidence was a single hair found on the back of Donna's neck that was light brown in color, which did not belong to any of her Asian family members.

Testing Samples in the Lab
Testing Samples in the Lab

Back at the crime lab, criminalists were able to determine that the semen belonged to someone with Type A blood. It helped narrow the field, but not by much. One in three people have Type A blood; in Los Angeles, that means millions of people.

Analyzing the hair showed that it belonged to a Caucasian, which ruled out many of the street gang members from the area.

"We have no eyewitnesses. We have no documentary evidence. We have no other demonstrative evidence," said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Carol Rose. "We have nothing else. All we have are forensics. But with forensics, at least we have a possibility for future discovery."



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