Case Studies
Grace Hayden Murder Case

Grace Hayden Murder Case

It was on 29th May 1987 when Grace Hayden, a 79 years old woman was found dead in her own single-bedroom house at 4400 36th St. in Normal Heights, San Diego, where she lived alone.

The reports show that Hayden was sex*ally abused, choked, smothered, and then left half-naked on her bedroom floor. She was found partially covered by a leopard print blanket. There was also evidence that showed signs of robbery.

Why The Case Remained Unsolved For So long?

However, due to the lack of any suspects, the case went cold. The other reason the case went cold was that Hayden often left her door open or unlocked. Later it was revealed that Hayden was seen routinely by a nurse, social worker, and a home healthcare provider, which explained why her door was left unlocked on the day of her attack.

The two important pieces of evidence found at the scene were the seminal fluid and a single fingerprint. The authorities found a single fingerprint from someone’s left ring finger on Hayden’s stove and a semen sample from the body of the deceased. Still, they were unable to find a match to the fingerprint or to the DNA collected from the scene in any database.

Resumption of Case and Arrests

The case was reopened in 2017 by District Attorney Investigator Tony Johnson. Johnson ran the print through a national fingerprint database, he got a hit — Kevin Thomas Ford of Robeson County. The fingerprint was first entered into the national crime database in 2015 by Robeson County sheriff’s Deputy John Blount, who processed the St. Paul’s man for communicating threats at a pharmacy.

Kevin Ford, who was living in North Carolina (20), just outside of St. Paul’s, with his wife, was convicted of the crime on 13th November 2017, in San Diego. Ford was working as a driver for elderly medical patients in San Diego at the time of Grace Hayden’s murder and a receipt collected by investigators showed he drove her two days before her body was found.

Deputy District Attorney Valerie Summers said that a receipt collected by investigators showed that he drove her two days before her body was found.

Robeson County District Attorney Investigator Erich Hackney said, “Deputy (John) Blount decided to fingerprint Ford as well, something rarely done on a charge of this nature. This set of fingerprints that were taken by Blount matched the print left by Ford at the crime scene.” Hackney said Ford’s DNA profile matched the DNA found on evidence collected from the crime scene.

An arrest warrant was issued on 3rd July 2018, by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office against Ford for first-degree murder and Ford surrendered at his North Carolina home without incident.

Jurors deliberated for about five hours before convicting Ford of murder and special-circumstance allegations of murder in the commission of [email protected] and murder in the commission of a burglary. On appeal, Ford contended that the evidence was insufficient to support an intent to kill necessary for the jury’s findings on the special circumstance allegations and that the evidence suggested at most, an accidental death.

Ford claimed to have had consensual sex with Hayden on or around the day she was killed but maintained at trial and the sentencing hearing that someone else killed her after he left her home. Ford addressed the court, saying he sympathized with Hayden and her family and couldn’t imagine if something similar had occurred to his mother or grandmother. 

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Louis R. Hanoian expressed disappointment with Ford’s denial of the crime, calling the killing “despicable” and “heinous,” prior to imposing the life-without-parole sentence.

Hanoian said “You have to be the most unlucky person on the planet, maybe the most unlucky person who has ever lived on this planet, to have supposedly engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with a 79-year-old invalid woman, left your biological material in her, and then within — 12 hours? — that woman is found dead as the result of a [email protected] that you didn’t do? The jury didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it. I don’t believe it.”

When the incident happened, the automated technology for fingerprint matching and DNA analysis was not developed, so it let such cases go cold. But with the development in science and technology, advanced fingerprint technology, and DNA fingerprinting, such cold issues can be solved, though it takes a lot of time, and still justice prevails. These two important technologies give hope to many more such cold cases that one day they will be solved.


Fingerprints are the impressions of the friction ridges on the tips of the fingers of every human individual. These are universal and unique to each individual person, therefore they form the basis of identification in human beings. The above-discussed case is a good example that reveals the importance of fingerprints in any criminal investigation. 

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1 thought on “Grace Hayden Murder Case

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      As a retired professional fingerprint specialist with over 42 years experience in law enforcement, I can only question, at this point in the history of law enforcement, why is there still reluctance to obtain the fingerprints of anyone arrested for a criminal charge. Time after time, after time has a set of inked type fingerprints led to the clearance and arrest of another criminal and another crime clearance. I preached it for all of my career and demonstrated it many times, inclusive of several, which would be readily recognized from national publicity.

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