This from a news release just sent out to the state’s media by New Mexico State Police Lt. Tim Johnson, who serves as that agency’s public information officer as well as the PIO for the state’s Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state crime lab:
SANTA FE — The Department of Public Safety, Forensic Laboratory Bureau recently discovered that five pieces of evidence were missing from two separate burglary cases. The evidence had been seized by Farmington Police Department and the Santa Fe Police Department during their investigations.
One latent (fingerprint) lift is missing from the Farmington case and four latent lifts are missing from the Santa Fe case. The Farmington evidence had already been processed and entered into Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) by lab personnel with no match or identification to a suspect. The four pieces from Santa Fe had been processed and determined to have no value. Basically, the lifted prints were not of high enough quality to enter into AFIS, therefore no suspect matches.
Timeline of Events:
- August 5 – Laboratory Director notified DPS Deputy Secretary (Corrective action initiated)
- August 10 – 12 – Complete vault inventory completed
- August 15 – New evidence procedures implemented
- August 16 – 18 – Complete vault inventory completed at Southern Forensic Lab
- October 20 – Lab Director self-disclosed to American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB)
- October 20 – Farmington Police Chief notified
- October 25 – 11th Judicial District Attorney Robert Tedrow notified
- October 26 – Santa Fe Deputy Chief William Johnson notified
- October 26 – 1st Judicial District Attorney Spence Pacheco notified
- Training on new evidence procedures to evidence section personnel
- Second check and verification of evidence being returned to clients in person to insure evidence is returned to correct agency
- Weekly random evidence vault inventories
The missing evidence is due to inattention not criminal activity. Noreen Purcell, Bureau Chief of the NMDPS Forensic Laboratory, said, “We self-reported to ASCLD/LAB, law enforcement officials, and the public in an effort to insure that all parties maintain their confidence in the lab.”
It is unclear what case, or cases, the four missing finger prints belong to for Santa Fe police.