By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 28, 2010

Nor could the Smith team, which had all of the fingerprint documentation. In its March 2004 report, the team wrote: “Since there is no record of why, when, or by whom an additional set of fingerprints were requested, this needs to be further investigated.”

And neither the Smith team, in its report, nor the Phoenix could find reference to the second set of elimination cards (the “June 3” set), prior to Foilb conveniently discovering them in 2004.

In other words, it appears that when an explanation was needed for one fingerprint in 1998, a match suddenly appeared on a set of never-before-mentioned cards. Then in 2004, when an explanation was needed for the other fingerprint, a match suddenly appeared on another set of never-before-mentioned cards.

The Phoenix contacted handwriting-analyst Rice after noticing that some of the signatures of the same people appeared markedly different on the two sets of elimination prints — the ones dated June 1, 1997, and the ones dated June 3, 1997. (See “Not Even Close.")

And there are other oddities on the cards. Lacy’s printed name is misspelled “Lacey” on one. On another, the year is written as “98” rather than “97” under both signatures. On yet another, the year is transposed as “79.”

Other elimination cards associated with the case contain anomalies, as well, including one signed with a different name than is printed on it.

Rice examined the signatures from the two sets of the Lacy family’s elimination cards, and compared them with other signatures, provided by the Phoenix, known to have been made by the same people at around the same time, including mortgage documents signed by Bonnie Lacy. Although he cautions that a full analysis would require access to the original documents, Rice concluded that “every signature on these cards is forged.” He adds that at least two different individuals were involved in signing the names.

If Rice is correct, the fingerprints on the cards are also almost certainly not from the Lacys — as the former high-ranking Boston police officer points out, if their hands were available to make the fingerprints, they could have signed their own names.

Yet there is no question, according to the Smith team and other experts who have examined them, that the thumbprint on the Bryant McEwen cards, and the ring-finger print on Lacy’s card dated June 1, 1997, do match the two prints on the glass mug from the crime scene. (The fingerprints on the Lacy card dated June 3, 1997, actually match those on the two McEwen cards, an anomaly that authorities have blamed on mislabeling.)

That would mean, the former BPD officer, former prosecutors, and defense attorneys agree, that whoever doctored the elimination cards must have known whose fingerprints were really on the glass mug, and had access to those individuals to ink the prints on the forged elimination-print cards.

If the forgers knew who the prints did belong to, they knew that they didn’t belong to Cowans.

Lack of answers
Had he lived, and had he not been exonerated, Cowans would not even be halfway through his prison term — he would be almost 25 years away from becoming eligible for parole.

Close to 100 people attended his open-casket memorial in Roxbury. He leaves family who are devastated, children without a father, and friends who talk about his generous and funny personality.

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