The last two of the eight victims of the fire Monday at the Cinema Follies theater were positively identified yesterday, after one mans fingerprints were found in FBI files and another man's brother flew here from Cleveland.
The identifications ended a grueling process that began immediately after the fire. Police checked missing persons records, fitted car keys carried by at least one victim to a vehicle found near the theater and placed and answered scores of telephone calls.
Positive identification of the victims was particularly difficult because persons who visit homosexual gathering places often are reluctant to carry detailed identification. Of those who died in the fire, only a 28 year old Marlow Heights man was carrying such documents.
He was the "easiest one" to identify, said Det. Sgt. Robert Sharkey, Jr., of the police homicide unit. After examining the man's papers, said Sharkey, who headed the identification effort, "we contacted his wife right away."
Some of the others carried identification cards issued by the theater listing a last name and initials. But positive identification must be made through fingerprints or by a relative or close associate.
In a situation such as that of Monday night, said Sharkey, 32, a nine-year veteran of the homicide unit, "the first thing you do is take fingerprints."
A next step, he said, is to check police files and missing persons records. If that fails he said detectives can wait for the fingerprints to be matched with those in FBI files and "[WORD ILLEGIBLE] through phone calls."
"I must have taken 150 to 200 calls,"Sharkey said, adding wryly, "and I made some myself."
The key to identifying a Columbia, Md., man came through a telephone call, Sharkley said. Detectives "had only his initias and last name . . . Somebody called in and was able to identify him."
The Columbia man also was identified through the matching of car keys, Sharkey said.
After telephoning the local address given on papers carried by one victim, detectives got no answer. A knock on the door did not produce any response.
Detectives talked to the ticket taker at the theater who "seemed to remember" the man and were preparing to visit homosexual bars to inquire further.
Meanwhile, police found something in the man's possession that bore the name "Elgin, Ill." Police there were contacted and found the man's wife.
There were few, if any calls concerning the seventh man to be identified. An expedited search through FBI fingerprint files found prints yesterday that were taken when the man applied for a job at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1948.
The last of the eight to be identified was a 28-year-old economist with a Spanish surname.