A bloody handprint left on the wall where an Escondido man was stabbed to death helped lead to an arrest 32 years later.
Richard Finney, 75, lived alone in an apartment on East Mission Avenue. In November 1986, Finney was found stabbed 31 times. Homicide investigators say the suspect actually used two different knives in the brutal killing.
“It was a rather violent homicide,” Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter, said.
Among the grisly evidence found by Escondido police was a bloody handprint left on a wall.
But even after using state-of-the-art DNA testing to reexamine the evidence in 2007, the Escondido Police cold case team could not link the blood evidence to anyone specific.
Then, in 2016, Forensic Fingerprint Expert Cassaundra Barnes used new technology to examine a fingerprint collected from the apartment, police said.
“And she re-photographed it with newer equipment, more advanced technology and she was able to submit that fingerprint for a match,” said Carter.
Investigators say the higher quality print combined with advances in fingerprint comparison databases, led them to Nathan Eugene Mathis, 62, of Ontario, California.
Mathis was arrested on April 18 and booked into the Vista Detention Facility on one count of murder, police said.
The arrest brought immense satisfaction to longtime detectives, who've stayed in contact with the family.
"We made a promise to that family several years ago that we would do everything that we could within this police department to get solvency in the brutal slaying of their 75-year-old grandfather," retired detective Chuck Gaylor said.
Escondido police did not discuss a possible motive and did not say if Mathis and Finney knew each other.
“To know that somebody is responsible and that they’re behind bars is an amazing, an amazing closure,” said the victim’s granddaughter Catherine Turi.
Mathis lived in the North County at the time of the murder. Police said he did not show any emotion when he was arrested.
He is being held on $3 million bail and his next court appearance is scheduled for May 3.