In Oakland County, one of the most notorious alleged crime sprees is one that remains unsolved. Between 1976 and 1977, four children, two boys and two girls, were found murdered on Woodward Avenue between Ferndale and Birmingham. The media referred to the murderer as the Oakland County Child Killer. A recent breakthrough has brought the case back in the spotlight. FBI investigators have linked evidence, specifically hairs found the backseat of Arch Edward Sloan’s vehicle with hairs found on two of the four victims. A Mitochondrial DNA test was used to match hairs. This is the first breakthrough that links at least two of the children’s murders to each other.
Generally, forensic evidence is critical in any criminal case. Such evidence includes fingerprints, DNA, handwriting, ballistics, bodily fluids and much more. Hair is no exception. While the hairs found do not match those of Sloan or any of the other suspects dating back to the mid-70s, it provides investigators with a new lead to follow. Knowing the hair in the car is a match to that on the boys, investigators can now begin to look into who Sloan associated with and who would borrow his vehicle back in the 1970’s. This information could supply them with many more names that they originally did not have and could be the key to discovering who the murderer is. It now becomes a matter of matching the hairs found during the original investigation 35 years ago with the murderer now.
In cases that span years, and especially decades, police must be careful with how forensics are handled. Chain of custody problems and tampering are issues that can destroy a case as quickly as new evidence is found to re-open it. It can also open a legitimate avenue for an experienced Michigan defense attorney when representing the accused. Without taking into consideration these procedural issues, crimes, especially murders, can become increasingly difficult to solve. As time passes, physical items are often lost or never collected, witnesses die, and suspects disappear. However, the tiniest new piece of evidence can open the case up to numerous new leads. Police must be careful to handle all items with the utmost care. Often times, something as seemingly insignificant as a hair in a vehicle can be the major breakthrough and ultimate factor leading to a conviction. If mishandled, or if the testing methods and “science” behind the testing is questionable, it could also lead to the conviction of an innocent person.
Therefore, anyone charged with a crime in Michigan involving forensics needs a Michigan criminal defense attorney with experience dealing with a myriad of forensic science issues.