Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

All about Fingerprints and Other Impressions


In 1984, on an airforce base in California, a woman named Juana Gillette suddenly died. She'd been ill and had taken medication, according to her husband, staff sergeant Ronald Gillette. It was his belief that she had combined medications accidentally.

This case was featured on an HBO documentary, Autopsy 5, in part because it was so unusual. A killer almost got away with the murder of his wife.

Unbelievably, Gillette went away and, within days of his wife's death, married another woman. If not for this strange event, authorities might not have grown suspicious, but a man who has another woman in his home that quickly after such a death appeared to be hiding something.

Another autopsy was performed on Juanita, just to be sure, and at that time it was determined that the drugs she had taken did not show up in lethal amounts in her tissue. Something else had killed her.

Police searched the home and found a plastic laundry bag that appeared to have a nose indentation. It was difficult to make anything out so they turned the bag inside out. Using oblique lighting (lighting held at an angle), they spotted a clearly discernable impression of the dead woman's face still on the bag. It appeared to them that she'd been suffocated.

This evidence led to an arrest and conviction for Ronald Gillette.

While a nose impression gave this one away, that's not the only part of the face that has made a case for murder against someone. Even the ears have yielded clues.