Tests can’t match or exclude gun from Looper murders
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it cannot determine whether a .32 Rossi revolver the agency tested was the gun that fired the two bullets that killed Lt. Frank Looper and his father Rufus.
According to an FBI lab report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, tests on the revolver were inconclusive. That ruling, according to the FBI, means the agency could not definitively match the gun to the bullets. However, the report said the FBI couldn’t say the revolver was not the weapon that fired the bullets.
The Road to No Conclusion
In 1975, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) told Greenville City Police that a .32 Rossi revolver was the most likely murder weapon in the Looper case. Police tested dozens of guns but never found a weapon they could tie to the murders.
In October 2019, Murder, etc. revealed that it had found a .32 Rossi in the possession of a key witness’ son.
Don McIntyre’s mother, Mae, testified against Charles Wakefield Jr. in the murder trial. He told Murder, etc. he had found the gun among his mother’s belongings. Police took the weapon from McIntyre a week after the Murder, etc. report.
In 2020, Murder, etc. revealed that police had been aware of the gun since September 2017 but never made an effort to recover or test the weapon.
In June 2020, a Greenville County Judge order that the Rossi revolver and the bullets that killed the Loopers be turned over to the FBI for testing.
The FBI picked up the bullets and gun in early July and subsequently tested both to determine if the Rossi fired the murder weapons.
When testing bullets and guns in an attempt to find a connection, the FBI has three potential rulings it can make: exclusion, source identification, and no conclusion.
If the FBI could have definitively said the bullets were not fired from McIntyre’s Rossi, the agency would have issued an exclusion ruling on the weapon. As part of the judge’s order, the FBI tested a second gun that had at one time been in the Greenville Police Chief’s private safe. The FBI officially excluded that weapon as a potential source of the bullets that killed the Loopers.
In the case of the .32 Rossi, however, the FBI could not exclude it from a connection with the bullets.
The FBI report read, “Due to a lack of sufficient corresponding microscopic mark of value, no conclusion could be reached as to whether the…bullets were fired from the barrel of the…revolver.”
According to the report, the FBI standard for matching weapons to bullets requires “the degree of similarity being greater than the Examiner has ever observed in previous evaluations of bullet known to have been fired from the same barrel.”
While the FBI could not definitively match the bullets to the gun, the examination and subsequent research confirmed the bullets could have been fired by a Rossi revolver.
Attorneys for Charles Wakefield Jr. and the 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office have both received copies of the report.
Under the judge’s order, the Looper evidence and the weapon must be returned to Greenville authorities.
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About Murder, etc.
GREENVILLE, SC: January 31, 1975: Lt. Frank Looper was about to break the biggest case of his life. On a warm winter afternoon, the county’s top drug cop walked out to his father’s garage. In minutes, they were both dead. Investigators said it was a botched midday robbery and sent a young man, Charles Wakefield, to Death Row. More than four decades later, Looper’s family believes the wrong man went to prison.
When the case is finally recorded in the giant county ledger of arrests and convictions, the charge is listed as Murder, etc. Over several decades, a deeper investigation reveals the et cetera might be a lot more important than anyone ever admitted… [MORE]