EDWARDSVILLE (AP) — Authorities in southwestern Illinois are trying to determine how and why evidence in more than 100 Alton cases has been destroyed or discarded, clouding prosecutions.
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said his office learned on July 23 that an Alton Police Department evidence officer improperly disposed of the evidence in pending criminal cases, nearly half of them involving felonies, the (Alton) Telegraph (http://bit.ly/1un5G82 ) reported Tuesday.
The evidence officer has been placed on administrative leave.
"This is a very serious matter," said Gibbons, who has reached out to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Illinois State Police and the FBI to help with the investigation. "We do not know the extent of the loss of evidence, and it will still take some time for the investigative team to complete their full audit of the tens of thousands of pieces of evidence remaining in the vault."
Gibbons said he does not believe criminality factored into how the evidence — none of it involving money — went missing, though the investigation continues. Gibbons said the evidence includes items such as crack cocaine, heroin, guns, marijuana, a satchel, tools and surveillance tape.
Alton Police Chief Jake Simmons said his department is cooperating in the matter, which Mayor Brant Walker called an "egregious breach of protocol" that has left him "extremely distressed and angry."
Gibbons said some of the missing evidence involves cases that have not yet been filed, such as potential burglary loot still not reported missing. But the prosecutor said the most-affected cases involve major drug-dealing crimes, many of them developed by undercover operations.
"It is important to allow the current investigations to run their course and to understand that individual actions do not reflect on the entire police department," said Walker, the mayor. "I remain confident in the department's ability to protect our city."
Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.thetelegraph.com