NEWPORT (WATE) – Nearly one year after an armed robbery, Newport police said they have their man all thanks to a strand of hair.
Pam Lint, a store clerk at the Dollar Tree, was held up at gunpoint in September 2011.
"He pointed the gun at my head and told me to give him the money," said Lint, describing the attack.
Lint said she had just finished her shift when the man wearing a bandana pointed a gun at her.
Lint was unwilling to let him get away with the crime easily, however. She said she fought back and eventually ran him down with her pickup truck.
Nine months later, the dents where he hit her truck can still be seen.
"When he flew up and he fell down, his elbows hit the truck. The butt of his gun hit my truck. His hat flew off and it was on the ground," Lint said.
Lint said the man took off running. All that was left at the scene was a baseball cap.
"She couldn't come up with anything else for us to start with," explained Newport Police Chief Maurice Shults about the lack of leads in the investigation.
The baseball cap was sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab for testing.
"There was DNA evidence. There was hair in the rim of the hat," Chief Shults said.
Those strands of hair linked the crime to a man named Roger O'Dell Thomas. Chief Shults said Thomas is a regular in their jail.
Now, nearly a year after the crime, Thomas has been arrested in the Dollar Tree robbery case.
"You'll see more and more times where DNA is on the front end of these smaller cases," said Shults, explaining how smaller investigations in smaller towns are changing in a big way because of the technology.
Finally, Lint said, she can rest easy.
"For almost a year I've looked over my shoulder. I still sleep with a gun close to my head," she said.
Technology is helping track down criminals in crimes that may have otherwise remained unsolved.
Shults says the TBI foots the bill for the DNA testing. If smaller departments like theirs had to pay for it, they likely would not be able to afford it for smaller crimes.