Friday, June 7, 2024

Forensic Files

In our May/June issue, King Brown, crime scene supervisor for the City of West Palm Beach, discusses the grisly art of crime scene photography and forensics analysis as part of our “Crime Scene Heroes” feature. In this special Web Extra, he discusses a specific case in which his contributions made all the difference. 

“Before DNA evidence was allowed in Broward County courts, there was a female pilot for UPS that came home for Christmas break. As she got out of the cab and was walking toward her father’s house, she was accosted by a young man who took her for an 880-yard walk to a construction site, where he forced her to have oral sex on him, and then raped her in the dirt behind the complex.

I was called to the scene, in Hollywood. I was there to take and do physical evidence recovery. The good part about this was that it had rained all day. So walking into the construction site were two sets of footprints—his and hers. Hers were simple; she had a heel on. His, white Converse All-Star tennis shoes. He walked in, she walked in. The rape occurred behind the building.

And because of the photographs and the evidence, about a week later two detectives were cruising the area, looking for Mr. Bad Guy. They find two males fighting. This one guy, who was a suspect, [was] described him as a black male with two gold front teeth, gray shirt, gray pants and white tennis shoes.

The detectives pull up, and the guy says, ‘he stole my gold.’ So they start talking to the guy: grey shirt, grey pants, white tennis shoes, gold teeth. I get a phone call: ‘Do you still have the impressions from the footprints.’ I said, ‘yeah, I got pictures.’ I walked in and saw the guy, and was like, holy crap.

I had to photograph the guy—front view, side view, back view, shoes. I said, ‘let me see your gold.’ I looked at the two; it was a match. I put them both together in a Polaroid mp4 copy camera, took a photograph, walked down to the detective and handed it to him.

While I was standing there with the detectives, some other conversation went on; I’m not sure exactly what it was. But the guy goes, ‘I didn’t rape nobody; what you messing with me for?’ We didn’t say anything about a rape.

Because of the photographs, and because of a footwear examiner by the name of Fred Boyd, those photographs were matched up with the shoes from the crime scene and casts that were made. Because of that match, the DNA evidence gleaned from the girl was then sent to the FBI. Judge Mark Speiser from Broward County Courts did a hearing to determine whether or not DNA was physical evidence that could be allowed into court. The hearing was successful, and DNA was allowed in Broward County courts, it went to trial, and the guy is serving life terms in Florida state prisons. His name is Ricky Leon Johnson.”

This Web Extra was inspired by our May/June 2020 issue.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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