SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Police crime-solving tools and technology grow more sophisticated every day. But a humble fingerprint from over 20 years ago helped identify Craig Ross, Jr., the suspect who police say abducted a 9-year-old from Moreau Lake State Park.
Saratoga Springs Police Officer Kristen VanWert arrested Craig Ross Jr. in 1999 for a DWI. She captured a perfect fingerprint, ultimately providing the key piece of evidence that saved the victim.
“Back then, I believe at the time we were still doing ink and we were rolling their fingers,” VanWert said. “It wasn’t computerized at that time.”
The search for the girl crisscrossed the park for two days, but law enforcement traced a lead allegedly left in the family’s mailbox miles away. Police said that Ross drove up to their home to leave a ransom featuring that same fingerprint that VanWert had recorded decades before.
“State Police worked diligently trying to find a match for a fingerprint,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul. “The first one tried wasn’t successful. The second one was to identify any other prints in the New York State database that would be a match.”
Finger printing has changed in the last 25 years, drastically improving the system that ultimately brought the girl home. “Everything was quite messy with all the black ink everywhere,” VanWert recalled. “Now, it’s all just computer generated and basically just put your finger on a little tablet, and it snaps a picture for you.”
NEWS10’s James De La Fuente got fingerprinted both ways—messy old ink and the modern, quick way.
Saratoga Springs Police Lieutenant Paul Veitch said that decades ago, capturing the perfect print was always the goal, but not always a result. “Getting a great print, getting great evidence and it being used 25 years later to solve a crime,” said Veitch. “It’s a major accomplishment in itself.”
“I was totally excited!” concluded VanWert. “I was really pleased with something so small that I had done 24 years ago. The result—I didn’t something like this!”