Waiting on Evidence

By: Ashlea Sigman Email
By: Ashlea Sigman Email

Technicians at the state's 13 crime labs are busy. It's a fact Texas law enforcement agencies have to come to live with.

"All of the state's crime labs are backlogged and so we're all competing for their time," said Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk.

The state's crime lab headquarters, in Austin, does prioritize cases, but getting test results back for even the most urgent of cases can take a while.

The DNA comparison that aided investigators in solving the Baby Joseph homicide took six months to get back.

The Tommy Andrade case is another example. Andrade was shot to death in his Brazos County home by three men.

"We had several blood stains in that crime scene and we knew that there was a possibility of more than one source from that blood," said Kirk.

It would be another month and a half before lab results could verify the department's suspicions.

"That does kind of stymie an investigation, if we can't get timely results," said Kirk.

In some instances, Brazos Valley agencies are turning to private labs. When bones were found last month, in the woods in Grimes County, Sheriff Sowell sent the DNA to a private lab in Denton.

He says DPS results would have taken too long.

"It was in the upper six month neighborhood if I'm not mistaken, and maybe longer," said Sowell.

Recently, Bryan Police have done the same thing. In April, Blinn student Jenna Verhaalen was found dead in her apartment. Rather than send samples to the Department of Public Safety labs, police sent the samples to a private lab, for a quicker turn around.

However, private labs can be pricey.

"We were given a quote of $5,000," said Kirk.

The high cost of speedy results is why many in the law enforcement community would like to see something done about the crime lab backlog.

"There's no quick fix to this, but there has to be a directed effort at whatever level. We're going to have to work on some resolution," said Kirk.


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