Closer BCI lab a plus for area law officials

MARIETTA – A new regional office for Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation could lead to shorter turnaround times on evidence processing, which local law enforcement agencies rely on to help solve cases.

Additionally, the recently-opened Cambridge office of BCI will also cut a bit off of the drive time for officers transporting evidence for processing in the state’s crime lab in London, 30 miles west of Columbus.

“It’s a little bit closer,” said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite.

Local law enforcement had to previously drive evidence to Athens, said Waite.

Though the new office may not put a significant dent in drive time, it could very well put a dent in the wait time for getting results, said Deputy Dave Tornes, evidence technician for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

“This will probably mean that things are getting processed faster,” he said.

Enabling faster processing times was one of the goals of the new office, said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who announced the opening of the new office in a Jan. 18 press release.

“The sooner we receive evidence, the sooner we can test it and get the results back to investigators,” he said.

With the new Cambridge office, Ohio now has six BCI offices, including headquarters in London, and offices in Athens, Youngstown, Bowling Green and Richfield.

The evidence processed at the state’s crime lab is instrumental in helping local officials solve many crimes, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

In fact, it was DNA evidence processed at the state lab that led to a charge in a recent break-in at the B&W Pharmacy in Beverly, said Mincks.

“The guy dropped down through the air chute and when he did he cut himself,” he said.

Officers collected a sample of blood from the crime scene and sent it to the state for testing. The blood identified was found to be that of Carl Davis, who was already in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Davis’ DNA was already on file thanks to DNA collection laws which many states began passing in the early 2000s, said Mincks.

Ohio’s DNA collection law was first passed in 2003 and required a DNA sample from convicted adult felons. Now the law extends to adults who are arrested on a felony charge.

In addition to DNA testing, the lab also does ballistic testing, fingerprinting and testing on drugs to verify their composition. For example, said Mincks, bath salts is a drug that has to meet very specific chemical requirements to be considered a controlled substance.

DeWine said the new office will also have a polygraph examiner available by appointment.

“While obviously polygraphs are not admissible in court, it is a very good investigative tool,” he said.

More accessible BCI offices and faster evidence processing times were priorities of DeWine when he took office two years ago, he said.

“We’ve taken our DNA time to about 20 days on average. That is compared to 125 days when I became Attorney General,” he said.

Currently, BCI handles evidence for 95 percent of state law enforcement agencies and solves an average of 150 cold cases a month based on DNA evidence, said DeWine.