Military spouse Julie Snodgrass, 33, was found stabbed to death near Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines on February 26, 1991. Julie was discovered in the cab of her pickup truck on an isolated road off base and an autopsy revealed that she was stabbed more than 42 times. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) had jurisdiction of the case. During the investigation, they found evidence on Air Force Sgt. Joseph Snodgrass’ work computer that linked him to the crime. AFOSI found a letter addressed to his mistress asking for help with the murder of his wife. He also talked about the life insurance policy he had purchased in the event his wife died. The letter disclosed that Snodgrass elicited the help of his housekeeper (and lover), a Philippine native, to hire three hitmen to carry out the crime. The pair could then be together and live off the $400,000 life insurance pay out. During an interview with AFOSI, Sgt. Snodgrass grabbed the floppy disks and cut them to pieces with some shears.
Computer forensic scientists were able to find a way to put the disks back together so the data was readable again. This was the evidence the Air Force needed to make their murder-for-hire case. In the meantime in June 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted resulting in layers of volcanic ash falling on Clark Air Force Base and Naval Base Subic Bay. Amidst the chaos, Snodgrass attempted a jail break in August 1991 while awaiting trial but lost his bearings in the ashy mess and eventually surrendered. The eruption’s aftermath triggered the decision to withdraw all American Forces from the Philippines. Joseph Snodgrass pleaded guilty to the solicitation of his wife’s murder and was sentenced to life with no parole in a military prison. As a result of the forensic history made by piecing the floppy disk back together making it usable again, the military changed the policies pertaining to the destruction of classified data on floppy disks. The AFOSI’s “catastrophic blunder” was made right and secure communications destruction policy was changed as a result of the lessons learned when forensic scientists made history.
When the wife of a serviceman was brutally murdered in the Philippines, the Air Force Office of Special Investigators swung into action. Clues led to the victim’s husband, but he insisted he was innocent. Investigators would have to do something unprecedented: Reassemble a 5 1/4 inch computer disk which had been cut to pieces with pinking shears. -Shear Luck, Forensic Files (S10,E9)
Editor’s Note: Full episodes of Forensic Files are available on a variety of media platforms. Medical Detectives Channel features full episodes of Forensic Files on YouTube. You can also find full episodes of Forensic Files on both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. On Netflix, the seasons are grouped as collection 1-9. On Amazon Prime Video, you can find Season 1-10 here; Season 11; Season 12; Season 13; Season 14; Season 15; Season 16; Season 17; Season 18; Season 19; Season 20; and Season 21. Start bingeing and see for yourself why Forensic Files is such a hit!
Update (April 11, 2021:
Shear Luck | Forensic Files | IMDb
Shear Luck | Forensic Files | Medical Detectives
Shear Luck | Forensic Files | Netflix (Collection 9,E13)
Shear Luck | Forensic Files | Amazon Prime Video (S19,E7)
American woman found dead in Philippines
The Cataclysmic 1991 Eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
In the Matter of the Guardianship of Jaime Mary-Jean Snodgrass, a Minor (1997)
AF Computer Forensics Lab nabs criminals, byte by byte
Computer Forensics Investigations: Body of Evidence
Recounting US military’s last days in the Philippines
Information Risk & Security: Preventing & Investigating Workplace Computer Crime
Forensic Files Premiered ‘Shear Luck’: Military Spouse Found Stabbed to Death Near Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines (August 3, 2005)
30 Domestic Abuse Cases in the Military That Ended in the Murder of Female Partners