Crime victims' families express concern about lag time for testi - KMOV.com

Crime victims' families express concern about lag time for testing bones

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The Missouri Highway Patrol runs a number of state labs and handles about 28,000 cases of year. (Credit: KMOV) The Missouri Highway Patrol runs a number of state labs and handles about 28,000 cases of year. (Credit: KMOV)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

Fictional crime shows might make it seem like crime lab procedures can happen in a snap.

But the reality is sometimes a harsh one for families of crime victims who may be waiting for answers.

Regina Sykes says her agony was made worse by the slow wheels of justice.

Her daughter disappeared from Berkeley in October 2016. But when bones were found in Kinloch in February, Regina was told it would take up to 12 months to test them in Missouri.

“Do you think that 12 months is anywhere near acceptable?” asked Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager.  

“No. Absolutely not. No,” Regina said.

Even interim Berkeley Police Chief Art Jackson couldn't believe it.

“It was very much a surprise to me, I was thinking maybe two or three months but when they indicated it would take up to a year, I was surprised,” he said.

Instead, Regina says she helped to arrange for the bones to be sent to a lab in California. They were confirmed to be Monica’s within six weeks.

Other families in Missouri are also in agony. Loved ones of missing Kansas City woman Kara Kopetsky have also been told they'll have to wait upwards of a year to identify bones recently found in that area.

The Missouri Highway Patrol runs a number of state labs and handles about 28,000 cases of year.

They declined to talk on camera, but said they do not have the ability to test DNA when only bones are present. Most labs, they say, can't do that.

They do confirm their current wait time for other DNA tests in murder cases is 12 months, although they say agencies can ask to expedite.

Lisa Campbell at the St. Louis County Crime Lab says it’s very rare that they need to make an identification off of bones alone.

They used to be able send out to a lab in Texas, but funding for it shut down in recent months. Now they rely on the FBI to perform the tests.

She says all their tests take time, especially for quality control. A backlog is simply a reality.

Their biggest lag time is actually for weapons tests.

Those can sometimes take more than two years, but like other tests, the cases are prioritized.

“We would all wish we could process case the day it came in but that's not the reality and I don't see it becoming the reality anytime soon,” Campbell said.

No matter what the type of test, the backlog, she says, is something always top of mind.

“We would probably need to double our staff if we wanted to have 30-day turnaround time,” Campbell said.

Still, Regina says, for waiting families, perhaps more could be done.

“Being in a holding pattern for almost a year is unbelievable,” said Regina.

For at least the past two years, a special commission on crime labs has recommended increased funding to area crime labs in order to reduce backlogs, but so far, there's no word on where additional money would come from.

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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