KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The discovery that evidence or property in
eight homicide cases was mistakenly lost or destroyed has prompted
Police Chief Rick Easley to form a new homicide squad.
The unit will try to determine if vital evidence is missing in 856
856 unsolved homicides dating to 1976, as well as trying to solve old
cases. The squad of six detectives will start work in mid-December,
Easley told the Board of Police Commissioners Tuesday.
"I think this is definitely warranted and a good use of manpower,"
said Stacey Daniels-Young, the board president. "Anything we can do
to make the public feel more secure is important."
Daniels-Young said there was little support on the board or in the
department for using resources solely to check whether evidence
existed in old cases.
But she said Easley's idea that the squad would try to solve old
cases convinced the board members to support the plan.
"Their focus is solving old cases," she said. "If they find missing
evidence along the way, we'll deal with that as it comes."
Phil LeVota, an assistant Jackson County prosecutor who tries
homicide cases, said his office believes police have proper
procedures to protect evidence.
"But if there is missing evidence in any of our cases, action by the
police to identify it as soon as possible is a good thing," he said.
Easley said investigators will check the most recent cases first and
then work on older ones. He said cases with the best chance of being
solved will be receive the most attention because it was unlikely
police could thoroughly investigate all 858 cases.
Between 1976 and 2001 Kansas City, police cleared 77 percent of their
homicide cases, compared to a national average rate last year of 62.4
percent, according to FBI statistics.
The earlier audit looked into 57 homicides in which suspects had been
charged and were awaiting trial.
Easley ordered the audit in May after Jackson County prosecutors
dismissed charges in one case and lost another case, in part because
of missing evidence.
Evidence was mistakenly destroyed in those two cases and another one
when a homicide sergeant failed to follow proper procedures. That
sergeant has been transferred and is the focus of an internal
In four other cases, police do not know how evidence disappeared. The
eighth case was initially called a suicide, but homicide charges were
later filed. To prevent similar problems, police now keep evidence in
The audit included six recommendations to improve handling of
property and evidence. Capt. Christine Laughlin, who supervised the
audit, said all of the recommendations had been implemented or
She said the changes would "significantly diminish" the chance that
property or evidence would be mishandled in the future.
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"I'm not going to say it's never going to happen again," she said.
"We're dealing with humans."