Single fingerprint leads to arrest in decades-old murder case

 

Kevin Thomas Ford

SAN DIEGO — A North Carolina man accused of raping and murdering a 79-year-old woman in her Normal Heights home 31 years ago pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that could lead to the death penalty if he’s convicted.

Kevin Thomas Ford, now 62, was arrested last month and ordered held without bail in the May 20, 1987, death of Grace Hayden.

Investigator Tony Johnson of the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office was reviewing the cold case in May when he decided to submit a single fingerprint found on Hayden’s stove to a national database and found a match — a print submitted by police in connection with Ford’s 2015 arrest on charges of communicating threats, authorities said.

It was that fingerprint that allowed San Diego detectives to issue a warrant for Ford’s arrest earlier this month.

Ford was extradited from North Carolinato faces a murder charge with a special circumstance allegation of murder during a rape.

District Attorney Summer Stephan has yet to decide whether to pursue the death penalty for Ford, who would otherwise face life in prison without parole if convicted.

A status conference was set for Aug. 7 and a preliminary hearing for Aug. 13.