The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 23, 2012

DEA takes over investigation of BPD evidence room

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has confirmed that the Drug Enforcement Agency Tactical Diversion Squad will take over the criminal investigation of the Beckley Police Department, where drugs have been reported missing from the evidence holding room.

“We’re not jumping to any conclusions or making any judgments,” Goodwin said. “We are conducting an investigation and wherever that leads us, it leads us.”

Goodwin could not confirm how many prescription medication pills were missing from the evidence holding room at the BPD.

“There is no question that the Beckley Police Department is keeping our community safe. This is a speed bump, if you will. It will not deter the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the prosecutor’s office or the Beckley Police Department from addressing the drug crisis.”

Goodwin said he spoke with Chief Tim Deems and Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller Wednesday morning after concerns had been raised about whether the investigation should be handled by an external agency.

“I offered anything I could do to help, that I’d be happy to do so,” Goodwin said.

Keller said that although it was not necessary for Deems to turn over the criminal investigation, it was advisable.

“I think it was very advisable just so there can be no suspicion or rumor or conjecture,” Keller said.

Deems said that the BPD will continue its internal investigation, but the criminal side will be turned over to the DEA.

He also confirmed that the department’s property control clerk, Gabriella Brown, no longer has access to the evidence room and that she took a sudden medical leave of absence Aug. 17.

Capt. C.D. Mullens is now in charge of evidence during the process of the internal and external investigations.

Keller announced Wednesday that any drug-related cases involving evidence housed in the property room at BPD in the last 15 months would be dismissed. Goodwin said some federal drug cases could be affected as well, and each will be looked at on a case by case basis.

Goodwin did say, however, that the number of federal cases that could potentially be affected will be nowhere near the volume Keller is dealing with.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com