Lack of Biometric ID Might Shed Insight into Boston Bombing

In an era when a typical news cycle runs 24 to 48 hours, the mainstream media appears frustrated with the pace of the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing. Unlike many of the crime dramas portrayed on television, investigations of this nature are painstakingly methodical.

In his blog, journalist Steve Prestegard noted my belief that the improvised explosive devices used in the Boston attack were strategically placed after bomb sniffing dogs had swept the area and were not, as some media outlets speculated, left in trash receptacles.


Yesterday, the FBI released still photographs of two suspects.  By appealing to the public for assistance, it appears that investigators, up until this point, were unable to link the persons of interest through the use of facial recognition software.

Created with the technological support of defense contractor Lockheed Martin, the FBI’s $1.2 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) network—a system previously tested in a handful of states—uses 3D partial facial recognition software to develop a list of up to two dozen possible suspects. Data bases containing biometric images (mathematical dimensions that measure and catalog eyes, noses, ears, and other facial features) include the new, REAL ID compatible driver’s licenses, international passports, and existing booking photos. Digital images from social networking sites can also be imported to NGI.

Here’s a hint to those who believe Boston is a “homegrown” terror attack: the lack of biometric images linking the suspect in the white ball cap to a fairly expansive data base might mean that this person has been in the country for a relatively short period of time, especially since many states, through their individual DMVs, currently obtain biometric photographs from applicants as young as 15-years-of-age.

Gun Bill Goes Down in Flames

As even casual observers of American politics can see, members of the far-left often show outright contempt for the Second Amendment. The president claims he supports gun ownership, even though reports have surfaced that, during his tenure as a law school instructor, Obama, according to some sources, made statements advocating a handgun ban.

Many believe the Obama administration used the families of Newtown victims as political props to press for restrictions on gun rights, even though the bill rejected by the U.S. Senate would have done little, if anything, to prevent the Sandy Hook School shootings. Adam Lanza, the man who perpetrated the slayings, killed his own mother and then confiscated her firearms to commit the homicides. Lanza did not purchase these guns.

Having worked in law enforcement for decades, I have spoken to several investigators who question the need for more gun laws when those already on the books are under enforced.  Empirical data strongly suggests that those who violate state and federal gun laws receive what is tantamount to a slap on the wrist. This is precisely why straw purchases—a process by which individuals prohibited from possessing firearms solicit non-prohibited persons to buy firearms for them—continue to flourish.

As I noted in an April 10 news release, policeone.com conducted an extensive survey of 15,000 police officers, the vast majority of whom believe gun control might actually cause more problems than the legislation seeks to solve.

Moreover, the overall percentage of firearms’ related deaths attributed to school shootings is tragic but miniscule. Sadly, 92 percent of firearms homicides are committed with handguns, primarily in central cities. Reading the polling data, SF believes gun control measures are losing public support, as the vast majority of law abiding Americans, it appears, do not believe they should surrender their freedoms because big-city police chiefs cannot get a grip on naro-gang violence.

Take Milwaukee, for example, a city that comprises just 10.9 percent of Wisconsin’s population but, in 2010, accounted for 55 percent of the state’s homicides. Why would gun owners in Eau Claire or Green Bay concede their Second Amendment freedoms because Milwaukee, in comparison, is spiraling out-of-control?


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.


If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Rogue Former LAPD Cop has Paul Bunyan-Sized Axe-to-Grind

In law enforcement circles it is common to hear that a suspect has told friends, relatives, and/or accomplices that, “I’ll never be taken alive.” In reality, though, it is usually just tough-talk.  Criminals love to talk-the-talk of John Gotti or Tony Montana—the fictional Cuban cutthroat in the 1983 movie Scareface; rarely, however, do they walk-the-walk.  Fortunately, for officers working the streets, the fear of death serves as a powerful deterrent.

What sends law enforcement into a frenzy is a well-trained killer with nothing to lose, like Christopher Dorner, the former Los Angeles Police Department cop gone rogue.  More than 100 tactically trained officers turned their attention to mountains surrounding Bear Lake, California, on Thursday, where Dorner’s vehicle was found burning.

Last Sunday, police allege that Dorner murdered Monica Quan and her boyfriend, Keith Lawrence, in a condominium parking garage in the Los Angeles suburb of Irvine. Quan is the daughter of a retired LAPD captain turned attorney, who had represented Dorner during an appeal of his termination for providing false statements to internal investigators. According to a manifesto he authored, Dorner believes that the attorney did not act as his advocate, and, instead, failed to attack the jaundiced evidence used against him.

From prior experience, it is not unusual for an accused officer to allege that internal investigators embellished statements, twisted facts, or conveniently omitted exculpatory information. In most law enforcement agencies, the commander of an internal affairs unit reports directly to the chief-of-police. Hence, some believe that the outcomes of high-profile internal investigations are pre-determined by the chief; whereby, the chief’s henchmen construe the facts necessary to make a square peg fit into a round hole.  This pre-ordained outcome is then rubber stamped by the chief-of-police, who self-rationalizes this lack of institutional integrity as the ends justifying means.

Without knowing all the facts, a hunch says that Dorner’s beef with the LAPD stems directly from the aforementioned scenario. Three days prior to the homicides of Quan and Lawrence, The Huffington Post reports that CNN’s Anderson Cooper received a coin, given away by former LAPD Police Chief William Bratton, with bullet holes that read, “I never lied.”

Unlike the usual criminal suspects, most of whom lack the knowledge or willingness to walk-the-walk, Dorner’s Rambo-like credentials and his apparent alacrity to die are enough to cause the hair on the back on any cop’s neck to stand upright.

The Guardian notes that Clint Grimes, a former “navy comrade,” described the marksman Dorner as “friendly, bright and technologically savvy…They’re not looking for a stupid guy, here.”

So where is Christopher Dorner now?

Reports suggest that there are hundreds of cabins in the area where Dorner’s vehicle was found. With the snow and frigid cold descending on the Bear Lake area, Dorner certainly will take shelter. Having knowledge of police and military tactics, he likely knows that, once the snow clears, the police will use infrared equipped helicopters and drones to locate a single individual isolated in a remote location.  This leads me to believe that, if he is not already dead, Dorner might do one of two things: forcibly enter a cabin occupied by others or procure a vehicle.

Reading between the lines, law enforcement is concerned that Dorner might make use of improvised explosives.  This is likely why investigators scoured his mother’s residence and sifted through the garbage.

Hopefully, the manhunt will come to an end peacefully, although the proverbial writing on the wall points to a tragic ending.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at Amazon.com.


If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:


© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Police Looking for Info in Bizarre Abduction of Hall of Famer’s Mother

In a plea for assistance from the public, former Baltimore Orioles shortstop and baseball Hall of Fame member Cal Ripken, Jr. appeared on Good Morning America asking anyone with information regarding the abduction of his mother to contact law enforcement.

Vi Ripken, 74, told police she was taken from her home at gunpoint on July 24. She was blindfolded by a thin, white male and driven around the area for nearly a day in her own Lincoln Continental.  She was returned, unharmed, on July 25 and found bound in the same vehicle parked on a street near her residence–a location that, only a few hours early, was buzzing with police activity.

“It’s just hard to believe the guy came all the way back on the street and dropped her off,” 43-year-old Mike Hudson told the Huffington Post.  “That makes me believe he was local, very local.”

Law enforcement has had little to say about the ongoing investigation.  Earlier this week, billboards appeared in the Baltimore area displaying a composite sketch of the person involved.  Video footage from a Wal-Mart store depicts a 22 to 28-year-old suspect wearing a thin, white jacket covering a gray t-shirt, an orange ball cap with a black front and white logo, blue jean pants and brown boots.  The man appears to have light brown or dish water blond hair. Being a warm Maryland evening, the jacket might be an attempt to conceal tattoos or other identifying features on the suspect’s arms.

Vi Ripken told a neighbor the man involved did not appear to know that she was Cal Ripken, Jr.’s mother, although he wanted her car and some money.  No ransom note was ever sent.

SF is keeping tabs on this ongoing investigation.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at Amazon.com.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html



© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012

Alleged Killer on the Loose Armed and Dangerous

Armed and dangerous, Justin P. Welch is on the loose. 

Welch, 26, escaped the custody of guards in the wee hours of January 13 at a rest stop in Van Buren, Arkansas.  Reports indicate that Welch stabbed and disarmed one guard then fired at another near I-40.  Welch then gained access to the prisoner transport van and fled eastbound on the interstate. 

In November, a criminal complaint charged Welch as a party to a crime to the First Degree Intentional Homicide of Kimberly Smith. 

On October 1, Smith’s live-in boyfriend, Timothy McMickle, discovered Smith unresponsive and bloody at their Oconomowoc, Wisconsin residence around 8:30 a.m.  First responders found that Smith, who had expired, had her hands bound together.  An autopsy revealed that the Smith died of multiple stab wounds. 

Searching the area near the crime scene, officers located a knife and pair of bloody gloves in a sewer a short distance from the residence.  DNA from inside a rubber glove matched a sample in the National Data Bank collected from Justin Patrick Welch during a stint in a California prison. Investigators showed Welch’s photograph to Smith’s family and friends, but they had never seen the man before.  Moreover, Welch did not have any ties to Wisconsin.

When contacted by investigators, the suspect’s estranged wife, Ariele Welch, reported that she visited Justin Welch in Rosarito, Mexico in May 2009 and that the suspect may be using the name of his step-brother, Ricky G. Freeman. The suspect’s mother knew that Justin Welch had resided with a man named “Jack.”

Oconomowoc Detective Andrew Rich later called “Jack’s” telephone number and identified the man as Jack E. Johnson, who stated that his best friend is Darren M. Wold—Kimberly Smith’s ex-boyfriend and the father of the victim’s four-year-old son. Court records, as well as Wold’s attorney, drew a picture of a “highly acrimonious” child custody dispute.

Working in conjunction with a Wells Fargo fraud investigator, detectives obtained records from Jack E. Johnson’s debt card.  Johnson had purchased an American Airlines ticket for a September 28, 2009 trip from San Diego to Milwaukee—36 miles to the east of Oconomowoc—for Ricky G. Freeman.  Records from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security showed that Johnson and Freeman entered the U.S. from Mexico five hours prior to the flight’s departure. Freeman’s return flight left Milwaukee on October 1 at 10:45 a.m.

Another witness from a Walmart store in Lubbock, Texas, where Darren Wold resided, told investigators Jack Johnson sent a $700 money gram to Wold on September 25. Johnson picked-up the money gram at a Walmart in San Deigo on September 26.  Detectives continued to follow the money trail that painted a picture of a murder for hire scheme.

Investigators canvassed area hotels and soon discovered that Freeman — the alias used by Welch — had rented a room at the Lake Country Inn in Oconomowoc. Telephone records showed several calls from the inn to Johnson’s telephone.  On the day Kimberly Smith was murdered, an employee from the Lake Country Inn reported giving Freeman a ride to Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

Welch, Wold, and Johnson face charges of being parties to the crime of Kimberly Smith’s murder.  If convicted, all three could receive a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Welch’s daring escape is proof that he doesn’t plan on going quietly into the night.  Let’s hope the prisoner transport vehicle is equipped with a GPS system and that Welch is taken into custody before he can harm others. 

For updates on the search for Justin P. Welch, visit www.jsonline.com, the Web site of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Steven Spingola is a retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

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Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010