After Cold Case evidence destroyed, South Dakota law enforcement reveal how evidence is tested and stored today

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:15 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -

In the testimony yesterday regarding the Cold Case of Baby Andrew, the lead investigator discussed looking for evidence from the scene and was disappointed to discover it had been destroyed. Thankfully, he was able to find another way to solve the case.

The testimony may raise questions about how evidence is processed and stored for possible testing and prosecution in the future. We found the answers for Sioux Falls, and on a statewide level.

The amazing advances of DNA and other crime lab testing is bringing about new regulations to ensure accurate tests are happening now, and that the evidence will be available in the future.

Items discovered at a crime scene can range far and wide.

“It may clothing, it may be guns. It really could be about anything,” said Sam Clemens, Sioux Falls Police Publication Officer. “Those items, if they’re related directly to that crime are taken to our crime lab and then they’re safely secured really just for evidence purposes.”

Over the years, Clemens says analyzing and properly storing items has grown in importance.

“Things changed and I know 20 years ago DNA was probably not as prevalent as it is now. And so the evidence collection, the evidence, storage, it’s all changed,” said Clemens.

Whether items are kept at the local law enforcement office or sent to the DCI crime lab for further testing, there is a shared desired outcome according to DCI crime lab, Assistant Director Brian Zeeb.

“Our goal is of course to find the truth,” said Zeeb.

At the DCI crime lab, Zeeb says there is a plan of action for how each item will be tested, and the order of tests done.

Scientific developments bring more hope for answers. Today, DNA can be obtained from many everyday items.

“It’s a powerful tool It’s heavily regulated. There’s a lot of processes and checks and balances that are in place,” said Zeeb.

Investigators back at the station wait for the answers.

“The DNA we’re right at about 30 days today. Some of our other sections... firearms is a little bit longer,” said Zeeb.

But the evidence doesn’t stay in Pierre. After testing is completed, it is sent back to the local agency.

Knowing how long to keep the evidence is a collaborative effort. The decision includes the type of crime, the adjudication

“Looking to get rid of some of that evidence, we will contact the State’s Attorney’s office they will contact the defense attorney if there is one, and if they agree to release that information. Then we actually present that to a judge and get a court order to dispose of that piece of evidence,” said Clemens.

The answers from the crime lab and items presented in the courtroom all tell a story.

“To ensure that, you know the right answers are found and the right people are held accountable and the victim and the victim’s family get answers that are really difficult on their worst days,” said Zeeb.

Zeeb says with the development of more detailed DNA information, genealogy research is another tool increasing in locating a suspect, or a victim.

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