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Prosecuting Attorney's Office

Daniel T. Satterberg

King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office
King County Courthouse, Room W554
516 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104-2362
(206) 296-9000


Oct. 10, 2011

State v. Ronald Wayne MacDonald

1978 Cold Case Solved

Defendant Ronald Wayne MacDonald, age 50, was arrested and charged with murder for the death of an 80-year-old widow, who was strangled to death in 1978.  The defendant was linked to the crime as the result of advances in King County's Regional Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), which now has the ability to electronically match all areas of the fingers and palms.

In this case, AFIS examiners found matches to MacDonald from partial prints left on three items from the crime scene:  a bank statement, a Travelers' Check, and a sliding glass door.  Detectives investigating the case also found that the defendant lived only about seven blocks from the victim at the time of the crime and had previously been arrested for other burglaries.

The former AFIS system only stored and matched prints from the first joint (tips) of the fingers, which meant that if a print left at a crime scene came from another part of the hand, it could not be searched through AFIS.  Under the new, advanced system, AFIS now has the ability to match prints from all areas of the finger and palm and a suspect name is no longer needed to conduct a search.

As a result, latent print examiners are now at work identifying suspects in cases that have grown "cold" with no leads.   As a result of the new system, AFIS examiners expect the number of identified crime suspects to increase, which will, in turn, lead to more crimes being solved.

MacDonald's arrest marks the 19th "cold case" defendant charged since 2006, when the PAO and King County law enforcement dedicated resources to systematically review each of King County's unsolved homicides.  Over the past five years, detectives and deputy prosecuting attorneys (DPAs) have re-opened dozens of unsolved murder cases, some dating back nearly 50 years.  To review a complete list of solved cold case homicides, please click here.

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