Murder suspect's unlucky numbers
CRIME | Pick Four lottery tickets, DNA, determined police work yield man's arrest in '05 double slaying

April 14, 2007

It took DNA to finally charge Timothy Fountain with a double murder on the South Side.

But it was sheer detective instinct that found him first.

Amazing, remarkable and something "from TV'' was how officials described the work of Wentworth Area detectives who followed a trail of lottery tickets left at the scene of the 2005 murders of store clerk Graciela Rodriguez and her 75-year-old customer, Nicholas Guerrero.

"It's just excellent, excellent police work,'' Deputy Supt. Hiram Grau said Friday after charges were announced against Fountain. "They were relentless and stayed with it."

Easy to remember
Wentworth detectives had chased several leads in the months after the murder -- in which Fountain allegedly dragged Rodriguez, a 37-year-old mother of two, from the counter and shot her as she pleaded for her life. They released videotapes. They focused on a particular item of clothing he was wearing, checking into where the label was sold. They awaited DNA evidence.

And then the team of detectives returned to one piece of evidence -- the Pick Four lottery tickets left on the counter by the gunman, who had played a couple of games before robbing the store of $330 and shooting both Rodriguez and Guerrero in the head. The numbers 5150 and 5157 were played over and over, leaving one detective to reason that the shooter had played a number that was easy to remember.

His address.

So detectives ran the series of numbers against the Police Department database of known robbery offenders and came up with a Timothy Fountain, who lived at 5157 S. Aberdeen. He also matched the description of the gunman, police said.

A witness who saw the gunman walk into the store picked Fountain out of a photo array, and they knew they had their man, police said.

7 convictions
Detectives questioned Fountain, but they did not have enough evidence to charge him, and he was released. They continued the investigation, focusing on Fountain. Then last summer, he was arrested and locked up in Cook County Jail on an unrelated robbery charge.

In the meantime, state lab technicians found a partial piece of DNA under Guerrero's fingers. A search of the national database registered a hit for Fountain, confirming what detectives suspected all along, authorities said.

By February, detectives were able to get a search warrant to get a DNA swab from Fountain, 36, so the lab could double-check the results. Charges against Fountain, who has been arrested 31 times and convicted seven times, were approved Thursday.

"It's just a great example of relentless and unbelievable police work,'' Grau said. "Maybe the families feel a sense of relief.''

"It's just a great example of relentless and unbelievable police work. . . . Maybe the families feel a sense of relief.