A single fingerprint led detectives Wednesday to a North Carolina man suspected in the rape and slaying of a 79-year-old San Diego woman more than 30 years ago.
Kevin Thomas Ford, now 62, was arrested at his home in St. Pauls, North Carolina in connection with the death of Grace Hayden, who was 79-year-old when she was sexually assaulted and strangled to death in her Normal Heights-area home on May 20, 1987.
The piece of evidence that led detectives to Ford was discovered by San Diego detective Tony Johnson in May, Robeson County District Attorney's Office Investigator Erich Hackney said.
Johnson was reviewing the 30-year-old cold case and decided to run a piece of evidence again -- a single fingerprint from the left ring finger that was discovered on Hayden's stove, Hackney said.
It had never yielded a positive match before.
He submitted the fingerprint to a national database and found a match -- a fingerprint submitted by police during the 2015 arrest of Ford on charges of communicating threats, Hackney said.
Typically, a charge of communicating threats would not warrant a fingerprint, but a Robeson County deputy decided to do so anyway, according to Hackney.
It was that fingerprint that allowed San Diego detectives to issue a warrant for Ford's arrest last Tuesday.
"Had [the detective] processed Ford under the usual procedure, this case would not have come to fruition," Hackney said.
Ford was being held at the Robeson County Detention Center awaiting extradition to San Diego where he will be tried on first-degree murder charges.