A young man found shot to death off a New Hampshire highway in 1969 has finally been identified, thanks to an “old school” fingerprinting technique.
Winston Richard Morris, who was from Vermont, was found by a work crew in a water-filled pit on Aug. 7, 1969, off Interstate 93 in Salem. When police fingerprinted him, there were no state or national databases into which that information could be put into and Morris was ultimately buried, Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald said in a statement.
Police, who established Morris had been shot several times in the head and torso, also said manual searches of a fingerprint match at the time turned up short as well.
In 2012, it was requested through a court order by the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit that Morris be exhumed and in 2013, they obtained a new fingerprint from Morris and tried to find a match, to no avail.
They also found new characteristics about Morris that were unique identifiers. It was noted that Morris had “wide shoulders, was slightly hunched over in appearance, his upper and lower jaws were disproportionate resulting in a substantial under-bite and seemingly oversized lower jaw with buck teeth,” according to the press release.
Morris' remains also “had a severe break to the right upper thigh bone that had been repaired with a surgical plate and six screws.”
Timothy Jackson, a criminalist at the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory, again in 2019 tried to the run the fingerprint taken in 2012, but could not find a match, he told the New York Times.
Jackson eventually realized it was because Morris' outer epidermis on his finger had been missing and the fingerprint wasn’t being properly detailed. He took matters into his own hands, using an old technique to get a better fingerprint.
“I just go old school, which is very easy for me because I’m old school,” Jackson told the Times. “I decide to plot the individual characteristics, or the minutiae, myself.”
It was then he hit a likely match in the FBI database. The murdered man was Winston Richard Morris.
Morris had been killed just three months after his release from prison in May 1969. His family had been looking for him throughout the years by contacting police, the Salvation Army and the television show “Unsolved Mysteries,” according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
His family did not want to release a statement after his identification, according to police. The New Hampshire Cold Case Unit is now actively investigating Morris' murder and are searching for his killer.