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POSTAL INSPECTORS: THE SILENT SERVICE
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HANDWRITING ANALYSIS





Forensic document examiner analyzing handwriting samples of Joseph Newman’s signature and traced forgeries




Image: Forensic document examiner analyzing handwriting samples of Joseph Newmanís signature and traced forgeries
 

Joseph Newmanís family reported him missing in 1996. Law enforcement personnel suspected his roommate, David Mayle, of possibly killing Newman, but could find no proof. Mayle had previously been tied to, but never successfully prosecuted for, the disappearance of three other men. A task force created to get to the bottom of the disappearances learned that Newmanís Social Security Office disability checks were being stolen from the mails. Task force members obtained some of Newmanís original cashed checks and later documents. They sent them to the Postal Inspection Serviceís Forensic Laboratory for analysis.

 

Genuine or Forgery?
A forensic document examiner looks for similarities and differences in handwriting to determine if a signature is genuine or a forgery.
A forensic document examiner looks for similarities and differences in handwriting to determine if a signature is genuine or a forgery.

click to enlarge

The forensic document examiner looked for similarities and differences in handwriting to determine if Newman's signature was genuine or a forgery. The examiner also examined the line quality of the signature for evidence that it was not natural handwriting. A line quality examination considers the smoothness of the line, pressure of the pen on the paper, and unusual starts or stops of the writing instrument. Even though these signatures look exactly the same, an examiner determined that one was a forgery. How do you think she made that decision?

Image: A forensic document examiner looks for similarities and differences in handwriting to determine if a signature is genuine or a forgery.

Three questioned versions of Joseph Newman's signature
Three questioned versions of Joseph Newman's signature

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Joseph Newman's signature
Joseph Newman's signature

click to enlarge
Comparing Joseph Newman's signature with possible forgeries
Comparing Joseph Newman's signature with possible forgeries

click to enlarge
Image (left): Three questioned versions of Joseph Newman's signature
Image (middle): Joseph Newman's signature
Image (right): Comparing Joseph Newman's signature with possible forgeries


The examiner found carbon residue on some of the checks. That, and indications of a slow and precise formation of the letters in the signature, convinced her that the later signatures had been traced from the original.

Mayle was charged with mail fraud and forgery. He was found guilty on all counts. The judge was convinced that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Mayle killed Newman and three other men. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

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Acknowledgements

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