Fort Myers, Florida -- (News-Press) -- A police investigation based in Ohio, and spanning at least three states, wants to determine why a woman would burn off her fingerprints.
Sheriff's offices in Maine, Southwest Florida and Ohio are trying to find the true identity of a woman going by Julia Wadsworth. When she was arrested after using a false birth certificate to obtain an Ohio identification card, Wadsworth's arrest went from routine to something out of a spy novel.
She had destroyed her fingerprints to avoid identification, said Detective Jason Deaton, one of the three Allen County Sheriff's Office investigators assigned to the case.
Wadsworth says she was born in Maine, but no records can prove it. She is believed to have spent time caring for the elderly, including a man who died in Fort Myers in February. She claims to be a victim of human trafficking, sent to Florida when she was a teen.
On Friday, the Lima News reports the mystery woman was finally identified: 40-year-old Ann Marie Miller, a disbarred attorney from Virginia who has felony charges pending in Colorado.
Officials say Wadsworth has so far denied being Miller, but that pulling records and comparing photos seems to show the women are identical.
The woman's case is one of the strangest the investigators have seen.
According to Deaton, Wadsworth has been in the custody of the Allen County Sheriff's Office since July 9. She had been living with an elderly woman in Ohio when police came knocking. Wadsworth answered, then tried to flee.
"She ran into me," Deaton said. Wadsworth wouldn't speak and her behavior was "odd," he said. It is standard for a felony arrest to submit to fingerprints and a DNA test, but when officers went to take Wadsworth's, they discovered her fingertips had been destroyed.
While they are looking into how Wadsworth did this — chemical burns or otherwise — they know she did her homework. "She studied a lot on how to get rid of them," Deaton said.
Police searched a computer Wadsworth was using in the elderly woman's home, which led to more questions.
She had been researching criminal extradition, Deaton said. "Our bigger concern: What is she running from?"
Wadsworth resisted six officers in an attempt to avoid submitting to a DNA test.. They are running a sample of her DNA through a national database, results of which could take up to two months.
On Tuesday, she appeared in court under the name Jane Doe, according to the Lima, Ohio, News.
According to Deaton, Wadsworth told police about some aspects of her life.
She had only been in Ohio recently, sent by family in Florida to take care of a 95-year-old family friend.
Wadsworth had been living with an older man in Fort Myers Beach, Thomas Roberts Sr., who died in February. She was with Roberts for about four years. Wadsworth, who said she is 41, claims she had been living in the Fort Myers area since age 17.
Before that, Wadsworth — who said she was born in Bangor, Maine — claims she was trafficked to Florida. "We're not buying the human trafficking story," Deaton said.
Police can't confirm any of it.
"We can't find anyone she's associated with, any Social Security number under her name," Deaton said.
Prior to October 2014, there was little information on Wadsworth. From October to the present, there's "so much that it's overwhelming," Deaton said. "All at once she decided to come on the grid," he said.
Police believe Wadsworth wants to run from her past.
Her plan, Deaton said, was to acquire a passport and flee the country. She had done research into extradition laws.
Someone with a criminal past could hide if they had gone to the lengths Wadsworth did, said Carl Rothrock, an immigration attorney at Rothrock Law Firm in Fort Myers.
Without prints, crimes a person committed previously would not be known during booking, Rothrock said.
"Guys were getting fingerprint surgery as early as the 1920s and '30s," he said.
"Obviously something is going on," said Chief Deputy Ryan Reardon at the Kennebec County Sheriff's Office in Maine. His office was sent information on Wadsworth.
"She could be endangered, fleeing, who knows," he said.
Fort Myers ties
If Wadsworth is to be believed, someone in Fort Myers knows her.
Police say she was caring for Roberts in Fort Myers Beach for some time, Deaton said. A database of licensed medical practitioners no results for a Julia Wadsworth.
Roberts died on Feb. 28 at Hope Hospice, according to an obituary. The obituary did not reference any family and contained little more than Roberts' birthday. When reached by phone, a woman at Hope Hospice would not confirm if Roberts had been there.
Property records list Roberts as the owner of a home at 1599 Main St.
Those who have spoken with police regarding Wadsworth only knew her as "Julia" and had little other information, Deaton said.
Wadsworth has at least one distinct marking: a rose tattoo on her lower back.
Fort Myers Police Department Lt. Victor Medico had not heard of the Wadsworth case, but was looking into it, he said, via email Thursday afternoon.
It's been almost a month, and there's still no sure-things about Wadsworth's identity. Deaton fears that her true identity will remain a mystery, she'll serve 18 months or so for the latest infraction and be on her way, he said.
But Deaton's not giving up all hope.
"Someone somewhere knows," he said.