Police cases inch closer to closure

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Investigations from weeks and months ago move slowly through the system

By Carol A. Clark

A major reason for the extensive delay in wrapping up local police cases is the fact that the state’s forensics lab is dealing with a backlog of 500 cases, according to police.

The Scientific Laboratory Division within the state Department of Health blames a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and a staffing shortage for the backlog, according to an Associated Press report.

Hundreds of toxicology tests are waiting to be processed. The nationally accepted standards for doing forensic drug testing should take four to eight weeks, depending on the case, yet the state lab has hundreds of cases sitting untested for longer than eight weeks.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling mandating that lab technicians be available to testify in cases they handle has significantly increased the time that analysts must spend in court, according to the report.

The lab is also short staffed. It’s had seven openings since last May.

The ripple effect impacts law enforcement agencies across the state.

In Los Alamos, detectives completed their investigation last September into the head-on collision on East Jemez Road that killed Miranda Martinez, 29, of Velarde on Aug. 20. They forwarded their findings to the district attorney’s office, which has been awaiting toxicology results ever since. The results finally arrived last week.

“We are waiting for the district attorney’s determination on whether charges will be filed,” Capt. Randy Foster said this morning. “We are also awaiting their determination if charges are warranted in the baby Grey case.”

In that case, which was initiated last September, the infant died when he was just 10 days old. The baby’s mother, Katrina Vigil, 25, was investigated for allegedly giving birth at her parent’s’ home, then leaving the infant in a closet for three days.

LAPD detectives concluded their investigation within weeks and turned over their report to the district attorney’s office, where it remains under review.

Calls to the DA’s office were not immediately returned.

A case local police detectives wrapped up recently that is not awaiting toxicology reports or determinations from the DA’s office is that of Pedro Sanchez, 47, of Española who was charged with eight counts of fraud for construction activity that he failed to complete for seven White Rock residents, said Lt. Preston Ballew.

This case is going to trial.