Nov. 20, 2008 A murder case on America’s Most Wanted list is to be tackled by a forensic scientist at the University of Leicester and Northamptonshire Police. Brass shell casings from a doorstep shooting in American suburbia that shocked the community are to be brought by a US detective for investigation.
The detective is hoping that a revolutionary new forensic technique will provide a vital breakthrough in the murder investigation. The technique was developed by Dr John Bond, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Leicester Forensic Research Centre and Scientific Support Manager at Northamptonshire Police.
Dr Bond has developed a method that enables scientists to ‘visualise fingerprints’ even after the print itself has been removed. He and colleagues conducted a study into the way fingerprints can corrode metal surfaces. The technique can enhance – after firing– a fingerprint that has been deposited on a small calibre metal cartridge case before it is fired.
Dr Bond recently worked with another US police force to find latent prints on bullets fired almost a decade ago.
Now he is hosting a visit by Detective Tony Roten from the Crimes Against Persons Section, North Richland Hills Police, Texas. Detective Roten will bring casings from the Marianne Wilkinson murder case –currently cited on the America’s Most Wanted website. Detective Roten will be in the UK from 20 November-23 November.
The Marianne Wilkinson case revolves around the killing of the 68-year-old woman as she answered the door at 7.30pm on December 9, 2007. Police are investigating whether it was a case of mistaken identity- and whether another woman in a nearby house was the intended target.
Detective Roten said: “Our team of detectives has been working diligently to identify the killer of Marianne Wilkinson in December of 2007 in North Richland Hills, Texas. This case is very complex and it appears that Mrs. Wilkinson was not the intended victim in this homicide. I am very optimistic that Dr. Bond will be able to use his technique to find fingerprints on the shell casings of the murder weapon recovered during the investigation. This procedure could help us identify the person who loaded the murder weapon."
Dr Bond added: “We are very pleased to be given the opportunity to assist North Richland Hills Police, Texas with this investigation. I am confident that if any fingerprint deposit has corroded the metal shell casing then our new technique will find it. We have, quite literally, been overwhelmed with the interest shown in this technique since the visit earlier in the year from Det. Chris King of Kingsland Police, Georgia. I know that the partial fingerprint we found for Chris has aided his investigation. The interest in this work is a real boost for the research team we have now in the Chemistry Department at the University of Leicester investigating fingerprint corrosion of metals".
Dr Bond’s technique can be used not only to identify fingerprints on bullets but has potential for use on bombs. The new techniques can pick up fingerprints on metal even after they have been wiped off. Dr Bond has been approached by military personnel in Afghanistan to discuss potential use of the technique to find prints on roadside bombs. It would mean recovered fragments of bombs could be tested for prints put on it while it was manufactured.
Mysterious Murder Makes Little Sense
Around 7:30 p.m. on December 9, 2007, police say an unexpected visitor rang Marianne Wilkinson's doorbell in North Richland Hills, Texas.
After answering the front door, they say the unknown assailant shot Marianne several times before running off.
A neighbour of Marianne's heard three or four gunshots and immediately called the police.
Upon their arrival, police officers attempted to administer CPR to Marianne, who was struggling to breathe. Despite authorities' near-immediate response time and their best efforts to resuscitate the victim, Marianne died at the scene of the crime, her front porch.
Her family says Marianne, 68, had no enemies, and nobody would wish her dead. For her family, friends, and investigators, the ghastly killing seems unfathomable.
The murder came as a shock to the community. With no leads early in the case, North Richland Hills remained wary. Could it be possible a murderer was going door-to-door, delivering death?
Although it sounded unlikely, cops and townsfolk say they had little else to go on.
Concerned Neighbour Sheds Light on Investigation
Why was Marianne the focus of this ghastly attack? Locals originally concluded that the murder was random and could have happened to anyone; one of Marianne's neighbours thought differently.
A concerned neighbour, whose home shares the same number as Marianne's but is one street away, believes she was the intended target.
After speaking with investigators from the North Richland Hills Police Department, new light was shed on the investigation. Marianne's neighbour reported to police that she had recently gone through a hostile divorce. Furthermore, she and her ex-husband had major complications revolving around the ownership of a trucking company they cooperatively ran during their marriage.
Police say large amounts of money were at stake, and the witness feels that she was the intended target.
Due to the striking similarities between Marianne's house and her neighbour's -- remember, the two houses share remarkably similar addresses and are in the same housing community -- investigators conclude that the murder was not random at all.
Authorities believe this is a murder-for-hire, gone awry when a case of mistaken identity turned deadly.
Easter Sunday Reveals More Than Hidden Eggs
Several months later, on Easter Sunday 2008, a handgun was discovered on the 6500 block of Jerrell Street, at the intersection of Blend Street, in North Richland Hills.
Ballistics tests conducted at the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that the handgun was the one used to murder Marianne.
Tracing the handgun's history back 29 years, investigators say they discovered that the gun once belonged to a Mr. Harrison of Elk City, Okla., who had died in a motorcycle accident in 1980.
Further investigation into the history of the handgun revealed the second owner, Mr. Harrison's roommate, Robert Fannon, also known as "Corvette Bob," who is now deceased.
Neither Mr. Harrison or Bob have any connection to the Wilkinson family. Authorities suspect the gun has changed hands several times since the death of Bob Fannon, the last registered owner of the gun.
Cops told AMW that any information regarding prior owners of the gun is extremely valuable.
Leads are scarce and police need your help. Remember, this is a suspected murder-for-hire.
Police have the gun, but they need more to help Marianne's family find some justice.
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