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Police Make Arrest in 1963 Murder With Help From Computer

January 4, 1991

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Twenty-seven years after the bloody beating and strangulation of a drug- store waitress in Hollywood, a computer identified fingerprints found at the crime scene and police made an arrest.

Vernon Robinson, 45, was arrested in Minnesota on Dec. 27 in the 1963 slaying of Thora Rose, a 43-year-old waitress beaten and strangled with a silk stocking in her Hollywood apartment.

Robinson, a maintenance worker, was linked to the slaying by fingerprints found in the apartment nearly three decades ago and recently run through a computer that matched them with his prints from a 1965 arrest.

He was arrested in his Minneapolis apartment by Los Angeles police, Detective Mike McDonagh said Thursday.

″He was kind of stunned,″ McDonagh said. ″He refused to make any statement of any kind.″

The Rose murder was cracked using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, a sophisticated system containing prints from state and some local law enforcement files.

″It’s pretty safe to say this is one of the oldest cases, if not the oldest″ solved using the system, said Kati Corsaut, a spokeswoman for the California Justice Department’s division of criminal enforcement.

The system also made the fingerprint match that led to the arrest of Richard Ramirez in the Southern California ″Night Stalker″ slayings.

Rose, a waitress at the now-closed King’s Drug Store in Los Angeles, was found dead Oct. 3, 1963 in her ransacked apartment after an apparent burglary.

Fingerprints were found on louver panes removed from a window and on a wall inside the bathroom, where the killer apparently cleaned himself after the bloody slaying, Deputy District Attorney Gregson Somes said.

The fingerprints were compared without the aid of a computer to some 30,000 prints in state and local files, but police couldn’t make a match.

The original investigator, Detective J.A. Tubbs, retired about 15 years ago and although the case remained open, it was set aside - until the fingerprint computer went on line.

″The Police Department at random has picked numerous old homicide cases to run through this system,″ McDonagh said. ″This case is one of the first ones that has come together.″

After Robinson’s fingerprints matched those found at the crime scene, the district attorney’s office issued an arrest warrant Dec. 17 and detectives tracked Robinson to Minneapolis.

Robinson had apparently been living nearly all the time since the slaying in Los Angeles and moved to Minnesota only about a month ago, police said.

The district attorney’s office will attempt to have Robinson extradited to Los Angeles.

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