May 19, 2022
In March 2021, a state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) contacted the FBI for assistance in identifying two victims of a house fire, which six people died.
The OCME sent the fingerprints of both a male and female victim to the FBI’s Special Processing Center (SPC). The SPC staff searched the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System for possible matches to the prints, which resulted in the identification of the male victim. The female victim had been so severely burned that responders could only capture two, low-quality fingerprints.
The SPC sent the prints to the FBI's Laboratory Division for a search using the latent algorithm, which is a normal process for low-quality and rejected fingerprints. Again, the search received a negative result due to poor quality.
The Laboratory Division did several text-based searches on the female victim’s presumed identity, producing no result. Refusing to quit, the program manager searched for victim information in the National Data Exchange (N-DEx) System. The N-DEx search located the records of six encounters the female victim may have had with a police department. The program manager requested the victim’s fingerprints from the police department. Although a county jail had booked her, they did not have her prints on file.
The N-DEx records also included a potential alias and date of birth for the female victim. As a last resort, the program manager used this information to obtain a fingerprint card from a 2006 arrest in another state. A manual comparison of fingerprints from the card finally identified the female victim. Without the use of N-DEx, a fingerprint identification would have been nearly impossible.