New fingerprint algorithm helps ID bodies found decades ago

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A new computer algorithm is helping the FBI identify bodies that were found years or even decades ago.

The system is able to make matches from low-quality prints or even a single finger or thumb. So far, the agency has looked at fingerprints from about 1,500 bodies and succeeded in making 204 matches to prints previously on record.

The FBI is now urging local authorities to search through other old case files and send in smudged or partial prints that couldn’t previously be matched.

In Des Moines, Iowa, the effort enabled authorities to identify 39-year-old John Downey, whose decomposed body was found in 1984. His family in Houston expressed relief at finally learning what had happened to him.