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Man Convicted of 30-Year-Old Murder Based on Fingerprint Evidence

October 27, 1993

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A man was convicted Tuesday of murdering a waitress at her Hollywood apartment in 1963 based on fingerprints that were found there 30 years ago.

The jury deliberated for seven hours before finding Vernon Robinson guilty of killing Thora Marie Rose, 45.

Robinson, an ex-convict who was leading a quiet life as a $70,000-a-year custodial supervisor in Minneapolis, faces 25 years to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled Dec. 13.

Rose was found sprawled on her bed on Oct. 3, 1961. Authorities said she had been strangled and bludgeoned by a man who broke into her residence through a kitchen window.

Police took fingerprints from her apartment and checked them against more than 30,000 they had on file but came up empty-handed.

In December 1990, police decided to test their new Automated Fingerprint Identification System by running a check of their oldest unsolved cases. The random search matched the fingerprints with those of Robinson.

Robinson, 48, said he was innocent. In the last 20 years he had raised three sons and hadn’t even gotten a parking ticket, he said.

But police fingerprint expert Donald Kier testified that 36 prints from the apartment, showing both palms and most of the fingers on both hands, were Robinson’s. The prints were the only solid evidence connecting Robinson to the apartment the night Rose was killed.

Robinson’s attorney, Bruce G. Cormicle, argued that other evidence from the case was missing from police lockers, and that slipshod handling of the fingerprints could have introduced errors into the identification process.

He said he would appeal.

Robinson, who was 17 when the murder occurred, was in the Navy at the time, and he said he was at boot camp in San Diego when Rose was killed. A boot-camp classmate who had corroborated that alibi died in 1991.

Robinson, a Los Angeles native, had a series of run-ins with the law 20 years ago that put his fingerprints on file. After his discharge from the Navy in 1967, he was convicted of kidnapping, robbery, credit card forgery and auto theft. He served 2 1/2 years in prison.

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