HARRISVILLE - A break-in at the evidence room at the West Virginia State Police barracks shouldn't impact pending criminal cases, according to the Ritchie County prosecutor.
Ritchie County Prosecutor Judi McCullough said there were 31 pieces of evidence taken in Tuesday's break-in at the West Virginia State Police barracks in Harrisville.
"We reviewed the list and found that a majority of the items were from cases that we had already disposed of," she said.
"There were a few items that were from cases that have not been tried yet," McCullough added. "Most of those items had already been submitted to the WVSP Forensic Laboratory for analysis, had been returned and was being stored in the room until trial. So, even though the item is missing, the forensic analysis has been completed. The evidence from the most recent drug cases had already been prepared for submission to the lab, and those items are stored in another secure area."
Some of the remaining items in the room were tampered with, i.e. boxes opened, those items were also from cases that have been closed by a conviction, she said.
Evidence is documented prior to being placed in the evidence room. The chain of custody is noted on the item, so that the identity of each officer who has handled the evidence is visible on the item. The item is sealed and secured with tape, so any tampering would be apparent.
McCullough said after the evidence room was processed by the state police Crime Scene Response Unit, Sgt. C.E. Boring inventoried the room and made a list of the items determined to be missing.
Some drugs were on the list of items taken, she said, but not a large quantity. She did not rule out the possibility the barracks could have been targeted by addicts.
"Maybe whoever did it thought there was a lot of drugs in the room," she said.
The range of items taken seems random, but it is early in the investigation and McCullough said anything is possible at this point.
The break-in occurred around 11 p.m. Tuesday in cold, wet and foggy conditions. The barracks is in an isolated part of town. McCullough said although there are several houses around, visibility was not great.
The power was cut off prior to thieves entering the building, and the area of entry was not easily visible to any one passing by, she said.
The prosecutor said several prints were collected. And several people have been brought in for questioning.