Small-town Tennessee sheriff makes first US arrest with forensic podiatry

Surveillance footage shows three armed men entering a package store in Wayne County, Tennessee in January 2017 (WZTV.)

WAYNE COUNTY, Tenn. (WZTV) - A small, rural sheriff's department in Tennessee made an arrest in a robbery case with forensic podiatry, analyzing how a person walks, for the first time in the U.S.

It all started more than a year ago when three masked men walked into Barry’s One Stop Package Store near the Tennessee-Alabama line in Wayne County, Tennessee.

“They had masks, gloves,” said Wayne County Sheriff Ric Wilson.

"There were no fingerprints, no witnesses. They were in and out in one minute and 38 seconds."

All the department could do was go back to the surveillance tape from the days prior to the robbery and try to see if anyone was casing the place.

“This one guy kind of stood out," Wilson said. "Most people get their beer and go, but he was just standing there studying the case."

A good hunch, but not enough evidence. Then one of the detectives read about forensic podiatry.

It uses what's called gait analysis, reportedly used by the CIA in tracking Osama Bin Laden but never used for a criminal arrest or conviction in the U.S., according to authorities.

Wayne County sent the robbery video and the video of the men lingering at the cooler to Forensic Podiatrist Dr. Mike Nirenberg in Indiana.

He did a detailed analysis and identified the robber as a 100 percent walking match to the man lingering at the cooler days earlier. The sheriff brought the evidence to District Attorney Brent Cooper.

“The doctor does a great job how he studies gait," Cooper said. "It was a great report. It is really compelling proof."

What happened next was up to Cooper.

“Then it was just a judgment call," Cooper said. "Are we going to roll the dice and see if our courts will accept this proof?"

They rolled the dice and brought in Quinton Nance, who was told we know you did it because of the way you walk. He confessed and then turned in his accomplices Corey Fuqua and Jesse Armstead.

"I promise you we are a very small rural sheriff's department, but we try the best we can and we had one detective who just kept digging and digging," Sheriff Wilson said. "It was like a needle in a haystack, but the results were wonderful."

The department was the first to make an arrest using this science.

“First arrest using gait analysis ever in the United States," Wilson said. "You would think it would be the FBI but it was Wayne County."

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off