A retired gas-station owner was arrested at his home in a suburb of Columbia, South Carolina, and charged with murdering two police officers in 1957 in El Segundo, California.
The Lover's Lane Bandit had ambushed four teenagers, raped one of the girls, and then shot and killed two young police officers when they stopped him for running a stop sign. The technology of 1957 had limited law enforcement's abilities to investigate the crime and it had been a cold case for more than 40 years.
But with the use of DNA technology, fingerprints lifted from the stolen 1949 Ford police believe the killer was driving were matched to George F. Mason, 69, using the national FBI fingerprint database, AFIS.
Many police departments have developed cold case squads that focus only on unsolved crimes. But while the technology to solve old cases exists, the time and money to process the cases are in short supply.
In July 2000, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department began an aggresssive review of all the county's cold murder cases dating back to 1980. There were 3,000 of them.
"It's worth the time and effort," says Capt. Frank Merriman, head of the LASD homicide department. "It's going to take a long time to finish this, but at the conclusion of it we will be satisfied that we have done all that we can do for these cases."