URI alumna, FBI examiner testifies in child murder case

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Worked on URI Forensic Science Partnership research as an undergraduate

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 15, 2011 – A 2004 University of Rhode Island graduate who earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology testified as an expert from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Monday in the Florida murder trial of Casey Anthony.

The 25-year-old Anthony is charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony in the summer of 2008. The girl’s remains were found in the woods near the family home in Florida’s Orange County.

URI alumna Elizabeth Fontaine, a latent fingerprint expert for the FBI, was one of two FBI experts to testify in the case yesterday. During questioning to establish her credentials as an expert, she told the court that for four-and-half years, she has been a physical scientist, forensic examiner in the latent print operations unit of the FBI.

Fontaine told the court that she successfully completed an 18-month training program in the latent fingerprint unit of the FBI, during which she learned about the biology of friction ridge skin, and various procedures related to fingerprint evidence. She processed hundreds of items of evidence and processed 75,000 comparisons during that training period.

As an undergraduate at URI, she minored in chemistry and was a member of URI’s Forensic Science Partnership.

She got her start in the field working with Dennis Hilliard, director of the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory at URI, on a research project involving handheld devices to test for alcohol intoxication.

“The goal was to see if they were as accurate court-accepted devices,” Hilliard said. “We found that they were pretty close to what we got from blood samples.”

As for her role in the research, Hilliard praised her as enthusiastic and bright.

“Elizabeth did a lot of work preparing graphs and doing a great deal of the analysis. She was a solid undergraduate scientist. This is a big case with quite a few high powered defense attorneys questioning her.”

Fontaine earned a master of science degree in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences with a concentration in forensic drug chemistry from the University of Florida.