Investigators say processing evidence can take years

Sgt. Greg Sowell
Sgt. Greg Sowell
Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss
Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss

By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) – From the investigators who collect evidence from the crime scene, to the analysts who examine it -- the entire process can take years.

"They have to work the same way we do, methodically and properly so the back log is there but we expect that," said Sgt. Greg Sowell.

Sowell explains law enforcement are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the evidence.

"We have to prove in each and every case where every piece of evidence was found, collected, stored, sent, all the way to the second it walks in that courtroom," said Sowell.

Every item involved in a crime is packaged and shipped to one of three DPS labs in Austin, Tyler or Houston.

Which one, depends on what type of evidence is collected.

"Narcotics and drugs are normally a two to three week turn around. Some of this other evidence could take months."

Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss says the value of evidence comes well before it enters a courtroom.

"More often than not, it may delay time it takes us to help identify who the suspect is and get them arrested, let alone go to trial."

Kerss says while there are private labs they are generally expensive, placing more of a burden on the tax-payers.

To keep within their budget, they send evidence to state labs.

"If you are receiving samples from 254 counties across the state and virtually any law enforcement agency in the state can submit those samples, how many cases a year are they actually receiving," said Kerss.

He says the state is in the process of building a new lab near Houston to process DNA samples, good news for an overload of cases and the investigators working to solve them.

Kerss says the Sheriff's Department is able to identify many suspects using Codis, a national database with information on offenders who have already been to jail.

©2010 KTRE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.