Fingerprint helps Church Hill police close 11-month-old burglary case

Jeff Bobo • May 1, 2013 at 8:11 AM

CHURCH HILL — Fingerprint technology might not solve crime as often as depicted on TV police dramas, but on Tuesday it helped the Church Hill Police Department close an 11-month-old burglary investigation.

Michael David Cooper, 34, 2880 Main St., Lot 14, Surgoinsville, was arrested Tuesday by Church Hill police in connection with a burglary and theft reported by an Ordinance Drive woman on May 30, 2012.

On that day, Tammy Neal told the CHPD she had been away from home for several days.

She said that she came home to her apartment at 730 Ordinance Drive to find that someone had gained entry through a rear bedroom window and had taken her television, a 47-inch Sony flat screen valued at approximately $1,500.

Neal found a screwdriver with a pink handle lying inside the rear bedroom.

Cooper became a suspect after it was discovered a neighbor had loaned him that same screwdriver about six months earlier and that Cooper had never returned the screwdriver to her.

That wasn’t enough to file a criminal charge, however.

CHPD Detective Kevin Grigsby reportedly observed several fingerprints to the exterior of the rear bedroom window where someone had attempted to push open the window from the outside.

Chief Mark Johnson said Grigsby was able to lift a fingerprint from this window.

Initially, the fingerprint was accidentally sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab in Knoxville. It was later forwarded to the TBI crime lab in Nashville, where fingerprint analysis is conducted.

On Sunday, TBI Forensic Scientist Harry G. Woods completed a report that showed that the one identifiable print Grigsby lifted was a positive match to Cooper’s right index finger.

Cooper was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated burglary and theft over $1,000.

“Contrary to what people see on television, solving crimes based solely on lifted latent fingerprints is pretty rare,” Johnson said.

Cooper was arraigned Wednesday by Sessions Judge J. Toss Ross and as of Wednesday afternoon remained held in the Hawkins County jail on $7,500 bond.

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