Threatening letter tested for fingerprints, DNA

Experts at the state crime laboratory at the University of Rhode Island are analyzing a letter sent to Johnston police that threatened beheadings at elementary schools in Cranston, Johnston and Warwick.

Local and state police, postal inspectors and the FBI are tracing the source of the letter.

"Evidence came down here. It's been processed by our guys, and Johnston police picked it up to bring it up to the health laboratory for DNA analysis," said Dennis Hilliard of the state crime lab.

Hilliard and his staff processed the one-page, handwritten letter by trying to lift fingerprints off of it.

Specifics of the investigation cannot be discussed, but if fingerprints were found, they have been entered into a fingerprint database to begin the matching process.

"It may take as long as two or three days to process a case. It may take several weeks," Hilliard said.

This is just one step in the process.

Police might also test the evidence for DNA to see if the sender licked an envelope or a stamp. None of that is handled by the lab at URI.

But the fingerprinting process that takes place at the lab is one of the most important steps in identifying possible suspects.

"We're going to use this powder, this magnetic powder, and you just apply this like a brush to the paper, and already you see fingerprints right here," said Hilliard, demonstrating the process.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off