WILLIAMSON – Testimony continued Wednesday in the murder trial of Anthony Collins from North Matewan, accused of murdering Roland Stafford in December 2014.
In Wednesday’s proceedings, Defense Attorney Susan Van Zant called expert witness Stephen King from the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) Forensic Laboratory.
King has been participating in finger print exams for 37 years and has 3700 hours of FBI training. King became involved in the investigation when evidence from crime scene analysis was submitted to his office on Dec. 23 2014. “That was my initial contact with the investigation,” King stated.
Initial evidence submitted to King on Dec. 23 included a light switch cover, duct tape, a plastic garbage bag, wall paper border, a package of wall paper border, pieces of floor tile, and other miscellaneous items.
During questioning, King described each item submitted and the method used to pull prints from the various items. King described the light switch cover, and wall paper border to be stained with what he believed to be blood. He also described the plastic bag to be “saturated in blood.”
Questioning from Van Zant concluded that King was unable to find any latent prints that were suitable for comparison from those items. “I was unable to find prints of value,” King stated.
King was asked to define what constituted as a latent print. “Latent means hidden. Latent prints are not visible to the naked eye. The print is made by residue deposited by touching surface areas with a hand, leaving biological residue.”
On Dec. 30 2014, King’s office received other items to test for finger prints. These items included a second light switch cover and an empty television box. Forensic testing conducted on these items was unable to reveal any prints of value.
On Jan. 22 2015, King’s office received a 2003 Ford Ranger pick-up truck to be tested for finger prints. King explained that the truck had previously been examined by another laboratory and certain areas of interest were covered by the substance the other lab had used to test for evidence. King explained that he continued with testing and that no prints of value could be found on the truck.
The final submission sent to King’s office on Aug. 31 2015 was another plastic bag. King concluded that the bag also revealed no prints of value.
Cross examination from Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Ferrell clarified certain factors that would contribute to a print not being suitable for comparison. “There are contributing factors,” King explained. “How we touch things, the amount of pressure placed on an object, the surface area, and the atmosphere… all these factors can impact a print,” King continued.
The defense attorney, Van Zant requested to ask a final question before King was excused from the stand. Van Zant questioned if King could determine any print revealed that a specific person had touched any of the objects submitted to his office. “I cannot tell you who made the prints or who touched them,” King said in conclusion.
King was then excused from the stand and the jury recessed for lunch.
The trial is expected to continue the rest of the week.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can also be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)