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ANAHEIM : Computer Whiz Helps Nab Suspect

A computer wizard from a local company that specializes in security systems has helped police find a man they are questioning in connection with two murders in Orlando, Fla.

Mark Alan Ford, an imaging system specialist for the North American Video Corp., helped Orlando detectives reconstruct the identity of the man, whose face was partially obscured by the time and date superimposed on videotape recorded by an automated teller machine security camera.

Orlando police had originally distributed the marred videotape to local newspapers and television stations in hopes of catching the man, whom police are questioning in connection with the stabbing death of a 55-year-old woman on July 10. The woman’s ATM card was used to take cash from her bank.

When no leads developed, homicide detectives mailed Ford their footage after a Florida sales representative from the video corporation tipped them off to Ford’s computer expertise.

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The 36-year-old computer whiz surgically removed the time and date, reconstructed the suspect’s face to the best of his ability, then sent the finished product back to Orlando early this month. When the restored footage was made public, leads began to pour into the police station.

A 32-year-old man arrested Aug. 5 on charges of soliciting prostitution is being held for questioning in connection with the slaying of Bette Shea, whose ATM card was stolen after she was killed inside a flower shop in Orlando, Detective Bud Jones said.

Homicide detectives believe the same man may also be responsible for a second slaying, in which a 32-year-old woman was stabbed to death inside an Orlando business Aug. 2, Jones said.

The man has not yet been charged in either slaying, however.

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“The enhanced photo helped us tremendously,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “We got his name through a tip. Somebody called in, but only after the photo came out in the local paper.”

Said Ford: “It’s a pretty exciting thing for us over here. There had been no leads at all and this was the only piece of evidence police had. But within one week, they were able to catch the guy.”

Ford said special medical imaging and graphic computer enhancement software allowed him to reconstruct the suspect’s face successfully, in much the same way as a criminal sketch artist would. He said there was a 25% margin of error in his work.

“They can’t use this in a court of law anyway,” Ford said. “More than anything, it’s just a memory-jogger for the public, so that somebody might recognize someone who looked like this.”

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