Mishandled evidence meant more than 75 cases didn’t go to trial in Ingham County. Now the current and former Sheriff are talking about how the problem went unnoticed for years.
All week we’ve been updating you on a story 6-News broke last fall. A new report shows, a long history of problems with evidence handling at the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department.
When then, Ingham County Sheriff, Gene Wriggelsworth first told us about the evidence problem last fall, he said a massive sewage leak compromised an unknown amount of evidence.
But this morning his son and current Sheriff, Scott Wriggelsworth is calling it disappointing. Explaining how outside of that sewage leak, thousands of cases were improperly tracked from start to finish, most involving guns, drugs, or money.
“The Ingham County Sheriff’s Office evidence room had been a sea of failed record keeping, evidence tracking, mismanagement, and a flat out disaster. Let me be clear, the evidence destroyed by the sewage leak, was a very small part, of a much bigger problem,” says Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth.
That problem, created three separate investigations, one of which, performed by the Sheriff’s Office itself. And after sorting through years of evidence, Sheriff Wriggelsworth says, the findings are not what he had hoped for.
“1,758 cases were improperly tracked from start to finish, the evidence is either missing, poorly tracked, or destroyed, and we don’t know why,” says Wriggelsworth.
And that’s not all. 79 cases involve ongoing prosecution and were dismissed by the prosecutor’s office. 17 involve money seized as evidence, totally nearly $400 dollars. Four guns are unaccounted for. And most disappointing, Wriggelsworth says, more than 500 cases involve drugs.
“When we dispose of evidence properly, we take it to an incinerator, and it’s literally reduced to nothing, there’s no way to go to some landfill or some other place to see if it’s in there, I mean once it’s gone it’s gone,” says Wriggelsworth.
As to why this happened, the Sheriff along with his father, who was Sheriff during the time evidence went missing, blame poor record keeping, turnover rates, and the small size of the evidence room for the problem.
“To use an excuse of well the computer was down or this that and the other, it’s just weak,” says Gene Wriggelsworth.
He says, he’s disappointed that so many people didn’t do anything to fix the problem, for so long.
“Police Officers know that’s the most important part of their job in detecting crimes to make sure that you can prosecute it. and if you don’t properly take care of the evidence, you’re going to be in trouble,” says Gene Wriggelsworth.
Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth says, he won’t be punishing anyone within the department, as many of those responsible have since retired. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods, as a criminal investigation with the Michigan State Police continues. Moving forward, the Sheriff hopes to add more audit checks and develop and evidence retention policy.