Forensic science plays an important role in the investigation of serious crimes. One of the first significant achievements in the field was the development of techniques for identifying individuals by their fingerprints. In the 19th century, it was discovered that almost any contact between a finger and a fixed surface left a latent mark that could be made visible by a variety of procedures (e.g., the use of a fine powder). In 1894, a group established by the Home Secretary in England set out to determine the best means of personal identification. This group, known as the Troup Committee, concluded that no two individuals had the same fingerprints-a proposition that has never been seriously refuted. In 1900, another committee recommended the use of fingerprints for criminal identification (Lambourne, 1984, pp 46–51). Though, fingerprinting was originally used to establish and to make readily available the criminal records of individual offenders, it quickly came to be widely used as a means of identifying the perpetrators of particular criminal acts. With all the scientific advances over the past several decades, however, one can't help but wonder if there have been any new advances in the field of fingerprinting that have aided in suspect identification. In the summer of 1985, one Los Angeles case clearly helped answer that question.
Without regard to race, status, or age, the Night Stalker attacked. His victims included single women, couples, the young, and the old. His attacks usually occurred in the homes of his victims, but on occasion even took place in the victim's cars. The women were sexually molested and then stabbed, while the men were brutally beaten to death. His female victims ranged in age from six to over eighty. Most of the women died, but a small percentage survived to provide a description of the attacker: he was tall, thin, young, Hispanic, and had an angular face.