The Rojas Murders

Historical topics related to latent print examination

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The Rojas Murders

Postby Charles Parker » Fri Jul 04, 2008 1:58 pm

The Rojas murders in 1892 in Argentina is a milestone or a first event. It is given as the first time a crime was solved by fingerprints (although Faulds makes the same claim which we will go into on another thread).

The background is that two children were found murdered in Necochea in Buenos Aires Province, Argentinia and accused a respectable man in the neighbor (Chapel).

Now the following is also taken from Chapel's book: "At the suggestion of Vucetich, the Chief of Police in La Plata telegraphed to a detective who was investigating the murder to obtain any fingerprints at the scene of the crime. Finding bloody prints on the door jamb of the murder house, the officer sent these to La Plata, together with the inked prints of Francesca Rojas and the man she had accused."

Q. How did this detective know how to take inked prints in 1892?

I have read a different account of this murder. The man being accused was the boyfriend of Francesca Rojas. And upon being contacted Juan Vucetich dispatched an inspector by the name of Alvarez to assist with investigating the crime. On his second day there he noticed the bloody prints on the door jamb and had them cut out. The boyfriend had resisted confessing to the crimes after being subjected to some very unusual interrogation techinques (more on that later). Inspector Alvarez had been trained by Vucetich to compare prints and upon taking a set of prints from Francesca and comparing them to the bloody prints he identified them. He confronted the mother who then confessed to the murder of her children because a second boyfriend would not live with her until her children were gone.

On several published accounts we have the bloody print identified by Juan Vucetich while on the other account we have it identified by Inspector Alvarez who was trained by Vucetich.

Source 1: Finger Printing: A Manual of Identification by Charles Edward Chapel (1941)
Source 2: Fingerprints by Colin Beavan (2001)

So who made this first OFFICIAL identification of a print from a crime scene. Juan Vucetich or Inspector Alvarez?
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Re: The Rojas Murders

Postby Charles Parker » Sat Jul 05, 2008 11:45 am

By Heather Baxter
Hello everyone,

I am hoping that someone here might have a good idea for me. I am writing a paper about Juan Vucetich and the Rojas murder case (1892). Does anyone know of any good reference material with information on the case? I have been able to find some small blurbs on the internet and in some of the texts in my agency's library, and I have the information from Ashbaugh's text. Does anyone know of any additional resources?

Thanks so much!Heather Baxter

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by Diana Tabor on Tue Mar 14, 2006 10:12 pm

You might already have this, but I was surprised by the scan of Rojas's prints at this website:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/visib ... etich.html

This one has a blurb at the end about the murder, but at least it is from the Argentinian government website.
http://www.mseg.gba.gov.ar/historiavuce/Juanvuce.htm

I also remember reading a fair account in some book, maybe in the Colin Beavan book Fingerprints.

Otherwise, I wonder if there might be some info in Argentina. If you don't know Spanish, call in a favor from a friend who does and see if there's anything worthwhile in databases that include Spanish articles.Diana Tabor

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by Darrell Klasey on Wed Mar 15, 2006 6:39 pm
In the 1940's, "Finger Print and Identification Magazine" featured Vucetich at least three times:

"Fifty Years of Dactyloscopy in Argentina" 25(4), October 1943

"The Vucetich System of Classification and Filing" 28(8), February 1947

"Juan Vucetich - The Juridical and Social Significance of His Work" 30(3), September 1948

There is some mentions of the Rojas case, but these articles give a nice background on Juan.

Simon Cole (2001) devotes a few pages to Vucetich in "Suspect Identities," as does Andre Moenssens (1971) in "Fingerprint Techniques."

Good luck!Darrell Klasey

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by Heather Baxter on Thu Mar 16, 2006 11:45 pm
Thank you for your help Diana and Darrell.

Darrell, do you know where I might be able to find the articles from the "Finger Print and Identification Magazine" to which you refer? My agency does not maintain copies of that particular magazine. I tried a quick google search and wasn't able to come up with anything on those particular articles.

Thanks again for all of your help!Heather Baxter

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by Darrell Klasey on Fri Mar 17, 2006 2:18 am
Glad to help. Contact me off-line with a mailing address and I'll mail you copies of all three articles. My e-mail address is in my profile for this site, and I'm in the IAI directory.

Darrell
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Re: The Rojas Murders

Postby gerritvolckeryck » Mon Jul 07, 2008 4:13 pm

I've checked some books by Vucetich :

"Sistema de filiacion" (second edition, 1896) : Mostly about Anthropometry, a bit on fingerprints, doesn't mention the Rojas case
"Conferencia sobre el sistema dactiloscopico" (1901) : The Rojas case is mentioned on page 18 (20 lines or so). Vucetich cites Inspector Alvarez.
"Dactiloscopia Comparada" (1904) : The Rojas case is mentionned on page 54 (10 lines or so). From what I make from it the prints were sent to the "identification office". The case is dated "1902".
"Proyecto de ley de registro general de identificacion" (1929 - with Luis Reyna Almandos) : Rojas case not mentionned.

My limited knowledge of Spanish doesn't allow me to translate any of the texts accurately. I'll have that done by one of my co-workers.

all the best,

Gerrit
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Re: The Rojas Murders

Postby gerritvolckeryck » Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:06 am

Some translations I promised :

Dactiloscopia Comparada (El nuevo sistema argentino).
Page 54.
We have the conviction that the finger schemes bear the necessary elements to establish the identity of people on any moment of their lives, in a definite and durable way. Moreover, thanks to these finger schemes, Justice reached great successes (2)

(2) In 1902, for instance, in Necochea, a woman called Francisca Rojas killed two of her children and put suspicion on an honest neighbour. As the local police didn’t have any success in this case, the chief of police sent commissioner inspector Eduardo M. Alvarez over to reinvestigate the case. At a moment of despair for not getting any new results, he found some – very faint - finger marks on a door. He asked the two pieces of the door on which the finger marks were found to be cut out and sent them to the judicial identification service where the whole truth was established, when proving that the mother of the victims was the real murderess.

Conferencia sobre le Sistema Dactiloscopico.
Page 18
In 1892, the woman called Francisca Rojas, who lived in Necochea, killed two of her children without pity and declared to the police that the culprit was an honest neighbour. Commissionner Eduardo M. Alvarez, left La Plata to conduct the investigation. During his investigations, he found several finger marks on a door. He cut out the parts on which the marks were found. These parts are still kept at the depot.

After that, he took the fingerprints of the suspect and the woman who accused him. It turned out that the bloody finger marks matched the prints of the latter (1).

(1) Letter from inspector E.M. Alvarez to Juan Vucetich. June 1892
The moment has come to declare you right on the matter you talked to me about and which meant such a great deal to our chief Nuňez. I’m talking about finger prints, which served as a powerful means to demonstrate evidently who was the real culprit of a savage crime. Initially, an honest neighbour was being accused.
According the wishes of our chief, I write a telegram as follows : “Official, urgent : Do everything possible, even if you judge it to be unnecessary, to obtain finger marks left by the criminal and bring them with you. G.J. Nuňez.” I leave you two cards : the first one bears the fingerprints of the suspect at the time he was being suspected by the police. The second one bears the fingerprint of the one who finally was the only criminal. I also leave you two pieces of wood which I took from the door of the house where the crime took place. You will find on these two pieces the marks which without any doubt correspond with the hand of the woman Francisca Rojas.

(translations from the original Spanish texts by Gerlain Rodriguez Pajuelo and Johan Stimart)
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Re: The Rojas Murders

Postby antonroland » Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:17 am

Just to clarify, if I have it right the fingerprints never got to trial in this matter. Ms Rojas pleaded guilty when confronted with the fingerprint evidence, right?
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Re: The Rojas Murders

Postby Charles Parker » Sun Jul 13, 2008 7:54 am

Antonroland:

She confessed but I have not found anything about a trial. I did read a little blub about Argentinia did not have the death penalty for a woman at that time and she was sent to prison. I will see if I can find it again so I can post the source.
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