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How FBI’s new fingerprint examinations are providing closure to families

By in Press Enterprise on July 30, 2017

By Brian Rokos

On June 24, 1997, a pedestrian crossing Highway 111 north of the Salton Sea was run over by a vehicle and died. Every attempt to attach a name to the man, including submitting his fingerprints to federal agencies, failed.

More recently, on July 7, 2011, a man with 20 cents in his pockets but no identification was fatally struck by a train under the Ivy Street overpass in Riverside. Again, as in the case of almost 60 other people, the Riverside County Coroner’s Office had a face but couldn’t match a name.

But those fortunes changed this year when the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, began applying an existing fingerprint identification technology in a new way. As a result, the families of 195 unidentified people across the country, including the two in Riverside County, now know what happened to their loved ones.

A family in Mexico heard from co-workers of Mexicali resident Mario Alberto Ortiz-Vicente, 32, that he had been in an accident, but the family didn’t know where. They filed missing-persons reports in Kern and Imperial counties on the relative who would occasionally come to the U.S. to work. Now, they know that he died, and where.

“(The) family was extremely relieved to finally be provided answers and closure in the search for their loved one,” a Sheriff’s Department news release said.

And a family in Oregon now knows that Lawrence Michael “Larry” Wilhelm, 57, a transient who popped in and out of their lives, was finally at rest.

“The unimaginable success of this has been astounding for us,” said Bryan Johnson, a major incident management program manager in the FBI’s latent print support unit in Virginia. “It’s been heartwarming.”

But the news of Wilhelm’s location, and death, was bittersweet for his relatives.

The last time that sister Nancy Wilhelm heard from her brother was in […]    

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