KINGSLEY — BY ART BUKOWSKI
Authorities arrested a teen who they believe smashed a gas station's windows and stole hundreds of dollars in cigarettes.
They contend he left behind one crucial item: his fingerprints.
Grand Traverse sheriff's investigators believe the teen, 16, smashed windows at the Fast Break EZ Mart just north of Kingsley on Sept. 7 and again on Oct. 9. He took at least 90 packs of cigarettes during the two incidents, authorities said, and caused perhaps thousands of dollars in damage.
Investigators said they located and collected the suspect's prints from an area near where he broke in, and the prints matched a set collected from him after a previous arrest for malicious destruction of property.
"It's not every day that we solve a crime based on fingerprint evidence," sheriff's Capt. Randy Fewless said.
The teen is expected to be charged as a juvenile. He could face malicious destruction of property, breaking and entering and/or theft charges. He already was a suspect in the incidents, but the fingerprints helped investigators make their case.
Anyone arrested for a crime that carries a penalty more than 90 days in jail has their fingerprints taken and entered into the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. That system, run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, stores fingerprints for years.
It can be searched for matches, and also proves useful if the perpetrator of a crime gets arrested for something else down the line.
"It can be retroactive," Fewless said. "A print can sit in AFIS for years, and then all the sudden the person who did it gets picked up on something else."
A worker at Fast Break directed a reporter to the corporate offices of Blarney Castle Oil, which owns the operation. An official there did not respond to a request for comment.