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Lotto tickets lead cops to murder suspect

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Lottery tickets left at the scene of a double slaying at a Southwest Side grocery store in 2005 have led Chicago police to the suspected killer, police said today.

Timothy Fountain, 36, of the 12700 block of South Morgan Street, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the course of a felony in the Aug. 4, 2005, slayings of Graciela Rodriguez, 38, and Nicholas Guerrero, 74, police spokesman Pat Camden said.

Police believe Fountain shot the two during a hold-up inside Maggy's Food Store at 4458 S. California Ave., where Rodriguez worked as a cashier and Guerrero was a regular customer, Camden said. Police found the bodies in a back room of the store, and the register was open and emptied of cash. Both victims had been shot in the head, police said.

Wentworth Area detectives investigating the case discovered that the offender had played the Illinois State Lottery Pick Four game at the store. The tickets with the numbers he played, 5150 and 5157, were left in the machine.

"In the process of investigating this, they wound up checking the lottery machine," Camden said.

He said detectives ran the numbers through a relatively new database of known robbery offenders and came up with Fountain as a potential suspect. Fountain, a convicted robber already in Cook County Jail on other charges, had previously lived in the 5100 block of South Aberdeen Street.

Later, a witness identified Fountain in a photo line-up as a person seen entering the store prior to the robbery, police said.

Detectives obtained a search warrant to collect Fountain's DNA, and it came back as a match to evidence left inside the convenience store, Camden said.

Camden credited the determination of the detectives and the evolution of DNA and database technology in cracking the case.

"This technology is getting better and better every year, as more information is added to the system," he said.

Reached by telephone at his job at a West Side metal recycling plant, Graciela's husband, Armando Rodriguez Sr., said he has spent the past two years trying to cope with his wife's murder and working to support their two children. He said the senselessness of the killings haunted him.

"I'm very happy they got the guy," said Rodriguez, 41. "People cannot kill people like that, someone you love, for what? For nothing."

Rodriguez said the loss of his wife has been especially hard on the children, Armando Jr., 16, and Jessica, 18.

"I do the best I can but it's very hard. It's very hard for them. They're thinking about their mother all the time, and what can I do?" Rodriguez said. "I try to take care of them."

He said his son is attending high school but Jessica recently dropped out of school because of her difficulty dealing with the loss of her mother.

The convenience store murders shocked the Brighton Park neighborhood, where neighbors and family members created a memorial of flowers, stuffed animals and prayer candles and expressed hope that the killer would be caught.

John Hamouda, who had owned the store for about 11 years at the time of the slayings, told the Tribune that Guerrero used to come in four or five times a day to play lottery tickets and chat. He said it was the first time a shooting had occurred at the store, although he installed bulletproof glass around the front counter in 2004 "just to make it more safe."

Shortly after the slayings, police produced a composite of the suspect from images taken from the store's security cameras mounted in the front near the register.

The robber took a tape from a camera that was set to begin recording later in the day, but not the tape that captured the robbery, police said. The security tape shows a man pointing a gun at Rodriguez, then walking behind the counter and emptying the cash register.

Fountain is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing on the murder charges on Monday, according to Cook County state's attorney's office spokesman Andy Conklin.

Court records show Fountain has a criminal record that dates back to 1990 and includes convictions for burglary, home invasion, drug possession and armed robbery.

In 1994 he was convicted of escaping from a halfway house where he was serving out the remainder of a prison sentence on a work release program, Conklin said.

He was found guilty in a 1998 bench trial of delivery of a controlled substance and sentenced to 6 years in prison, records show. In 2001 he was given a 4-year term after he pleaded guilty to aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Fountain is currently jailed in lieu of $400,000 bail awaiting trial on charges stemming from a 2006 home invasion and robbery on the Far South Side, Conklin said.

In that case, Fountain allegedly went to the victim's apartment Aug. 14 armed with a BB gun and robbed her of cash and a cell phone.

He was arrested two weeks later after police at a roadside safety check ran the license plate of the gold Chrysler Sebring he was driving and it came back having been stolen in a carjacking, Conklin said.

Rodriguez said his wife's slaying has left him angry and feeling helpless, especially in his inability to help the police find the killer. He said it was even harder learning that the man charged had a long criminal history.

"I feel like the police have to keep him in jail," Rodriguez said. "I'm very angry because somebody does this to me, to somebody you love, and it's not the first time he did this (committed robbery)... He put the shotgun to her (Graciela's) head. He should not get out."

Chicago Tribune

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9 comments. Last comment 10 years ago by Badger.
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Badger's avatar - adu50016 NorthAmericanBadger.jpg
Wisconsin
United States
Member #1303
March 27, 2003
1508 Posts
Offline
Posted: April 13, 2007, 8:58 pm - IP Logged

So did I scan that correctly?  They got the guy's DNA off his playslips?  Rather cool. Had he asked for Quickpicks they wouldn't have caught him.

Criminals these days never seem to think about where they leave their DNA, nor about cameras. The convenience store across the street from our plant gets robbed a couple times a year. And they have six cameras aimed at the checkout.  They aren't hidden. Usually, five minutes after the robbery, the local police are showing us the guy's picture and asking if anyone has seen him.

I have a friend who is a cop and asked him why low-level criminals are usually really stupid people. He said in the thirty years he's been a cop he''s never been able to figure that out ; but he''s glad they are, because they get caught so easily.

============

How can you tell if a politician is lying?

Answer: His lips are moving.

    onenumber's avatar - swordgirl
    Chicago, IL
    United States
    Member #8354
    November 2, 2004
    1580 Posts
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    Posted: April 13, 2007, 9:28 pm - IP Logged

    "He said detectives ran the numbers through a relatively new database of known robbery offenders and came up with Fountain as a potential suspect. "

    And WHAT database would that be??????  Robbers who regularly play the lottery.

    Badger, I didn't see anything about playslips, but I'm real curious as to out they figured out these numbers belonged Fountain.

      Avatar
      NY
      United States
      Member #23835
      October 16, 2005
      3475 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: April 14, 2007, 2:10 am - IP Logged

      "So did I scan that correctly?  They got the guy's DNA off his playslips?"

      As has become SOP in modern news reporting, the story reports a couple of facts and then ignores all the questions they raise. The story mentions the DNA but doesn't tell us how it helped, other than showing he had been there. Anyone else who was in there that day may have left some DNA behind, too, but it doesn't tell you when they wer htere or what they did while they were there. I had to reread the article to see if it actually said anything about how the lottery tickets lead the cops to the guy, and it isn't at all clear. There's nothing to suggest he used a bet slip or touched the tickets, and that's where he DNA came from. What is clear (assuming the article got it right) is that they didn't check his DNA for a match until after they identified him. It sounds like it's the numbers he played that  lead them to him. From the article:

      << the numbers he played, 5150 and 5157, were left in the machine.

      "In the process of investigating this, they wound up checking the lottery machine," Camden said.

      He said detectives ran the numbers through a relatively new database of known robbery offenders and came up with Fountain as a potential suspect. Fountain, a convicted robber already in Cook County Jail on other charges, had previously lived in the 5100 block of South Aberdeen Street." >>

      Since the guy has a record some (or all) of his previous addresses would have been in his record. I'm guessing that they searched for those numbers to turn up, and his address is where they found them.

       "why low-level criminals are usually really stupid people"

      In all lines of work the smarter people have a chance at advancement, while others will just make fries for their entire career. 

        Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
        Clarksville
        United States
        Member #487
        July 15, 2002
        17638 Posts
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        Posted: April 14, 2007, 2:59 am - IP Logged

        Its too bad he got out in time to do this..it is a very sad thing and I am glad they got him.  Let us hope that the justice system will keep him from ever seeing the light of day again one way or another.  I also hope that the daughter will seek counseling to help deal with her loss so she can get back into life (finish school).

        If you know your number is going to hit, have patience and then KILL IT!

        You never know when you will get another hit.

          justxploring's avatar - villiarna
          Wandering Aimlessly
          United States
          Member #25360
          November 5, 2005
          4461 Posts
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          Posted: April 14, 2007, 3:39 am - IP Logged

          I agree with KY Floyd that something is indeed missing from the article or it's written poorly.  A store would have too many fingerprints and DNA for testing unless they already had a suspect and just running the numbers played wouldn't lead the police to a murder suspect.  

          This is what I figured when I read the article, but it's an assumption.  Badger wrote that DNA was taken from his betting slips, which makes sense to me.  If they looked up all the numbers bet that day, stored in the lottery terminal, then they ran fingerprints and/or DNA off the slips kept and matched evidence to the database mentioned and also looked at the surveillance video, it would lead them to the suspect.  The only other way is if he won some money and was caught when he attempted to claim his prize.

          As LittleOldLady wrote, it's sad in any case.  A friend was living in Miami when her husband was shot to death in a grocery store.  He even gave the shooter all his money, so why kill him?  People always blame drugs, a bad upbringing, emotional problems, etc.  There's no excuse for taking someone's life, except in self defense, and the justice system shouldn't bend over backwards to protect these piles of human waste.  FL has a mandatory prison sentence called 10-20-life.  Pull a gun during commitment of a felony - you get 10 years, fire the gun-20 years, injure/kill with the gun-25 to life. I never liked the idea of mandatory sentencing, but reports indicate it cut violent crime by over 30% in only a few years (which is hard to believe if you turn on the 11:00 news.)   

          I rated this article 4 stars, not for the great reporting, but for the story selected by LP, since it is interesting.

            Badger's avatar - adu50016 NorthAmericanBadger.jpg
            Wisconsin
            United States
            Member #1303
            March 27, 2003
            1508 Posts
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            Posted: April 14, 2007, 9:12 am - IP Logged

            "He said detectives ran the numbers through a relatively new database of known robbery offenders and came up with Fountain as a potential suspect. "

            And WHAT database would that be??????  Robbers who regularly play the lottery.

            Badger, I didn't see anything about playslips, but I'm real curious as to out they figured out these numbers belonged Fountain.

            Well they did say they got his DNA.  THat means they had to have had something that he touched. I don't know where else they would have gotten it from except the playslips.  If he touched the counter (or anything else) in a store like that, you couldn't tell his DNA from all the other people that had touched the same thing.  Its the DNA thing that I found so curious.  I don't know how a new database would have helped them if they didn't have some idea of who they were looking for first.....unless they used the picture from the cameras....maybe then they saw he was playing the Lotto...then they examined the playslips (assuming here of course) and got DNA off them...then, since he was in the database, they probably already had his DNA sampled from his past arrests.

            The whole thing, while tragic, is still fascinating.

            ============

            How can you tell if a politician is lying?

            Answer: His lips are moving.

              onenumber's avatar - swordgirl
              Chicago, IL
              United States
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              November 2, 2004
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              Posted: April 14, 2007, 10:41 am - IP Logged

              I saw the news report on TV last night and what they said was that DNA was recovered beneath the fingernails of one of the victims.  KYFloyd was exactly right about the address, they ran those two numbers through an address database of previous offenders and came up with a match on those two address numbers and used the DNA found on the victim to "finger" him.

                justxploring's avatar - villiarna
                Wandering Aimlessly
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                Posted: April 14, 2007, 11:03 am - IP Logged

                Newspaper article from last night that's a little clearer...

                http://www.chicagotribune.com/about/custom/career/chi-070413double_murderapr13,1,5781259.story?coll=chi-news-hed

                Lottery tickets led to suspect's arrest

                By Alexa Aguilar and Jason Meisner
                Tribune staff reporters
                Published April 13, 2007, 9:50 PM CDT

                Like many lottery players, Tim Fountain used numbers from his own life when he selected 5-1-5-0 and 5-1-5-7 in the Pick 4 game on Aug. 4, 2005, according to police.

                Minutes later, when he fled a Southwest Side grocery store after emptying the cash register and shooting to death the cashier and a customer, he left the two tickets behind, police said Friday.

                It took a year and a half, but the ticket numbers—variations of Fountain's former addresses on the South Side—led to murder charges against Fountain, 37, now of the 12700 block of South Morgan Street.

                Fountain was charged late Thursday with the murders of Graciela Rodriguez, 37, and Nicholas Guerrero, 75.

                On a hunch, police compared the lottery ticket numbers to addresses in an arrest database shortly after the crime. Up popped the address of Fountain, a convicted robber.

                Police questioned him, but with no other evidence, had to release him, according to Wentworth Area Cmdr. Patricia Walsh.

                After reaching other dead ends, detectives in September 2006 found DNA in fingernail scrapings that had been taken from Guerrero shortly after he was killed.

                Because there was no sign of a struggle in the tiny Maggy's Food Store, 4458 S. California Ave., police hadn't looked for DNA evidence from scrapings in the first months of the investigation, said Detective Velma Candelario.

                The DNA from Guerrero's fingernails matched a profile of Fountain already on file. Another swab of Fountain's DNA confirmed the match, Candelario said.

                Candelario said they think that Fountain brandished a gun in front of the counter, grabbed the cash and then shot Rodriguez, the cashier, in a back room, out of sight of the store's security camera. Fountain pulled the wires out of the camera and returned to the front of the store, where detectives think he shot Guerrero.

                Hiram Grau, deputy police superintendent, described the arrest as "good old-fashioned police work."
                  Badger's avatar - adu50016 NorthAmericanBadger.jpg
                  Wisconsin
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                  Member #1303
                  March 27, 2003
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                  Posted: April 14, 2007, 1:57 pm - IP Logged

                  "Like many lottery players, Tim Fountain used numbers from his own life when he selected 5-1-5-0 and 5-1-5-7 in the Pick 4 game on Aug. 4, 2005, according to police."

                  Ahah !  So they got the DNA from the victims and the dummy was playing his former addresses. This is a better explanation of the whole process then. The original article was very nebulously written. The reporter must be newly graduated from Journalism school.

                  ============

                  How can you tell if a politician is lying?

                  Answer: His lips are moving.