Headlines Cont. – 7/5/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – July 5, 2005


Forensic focus
Local lab works with agencies to evaluate evidence
in crimes
     The Mississippi Crime Lab located at 22000 Hwy. 35 employs 10 forensic scientists. Walking into the building is
JC Smiley
, the associate director of the crime lab.
By Emily Darby

Law enforcement agencies from throughout North Mississippi turn to Batesville’s North Mississippi Crime Laboratory (MCL) for help with a full range of forensic services. The facility, located adjacent to the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol’s district office at 22000 Hwy. 35 North, employs 10 forensic scientists. It is a division of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

During their 2004 fiscal year, the crime lab responded to more than 95 crime scenes and assisted with more than 1,800 drug testing requests and 840 latent (finger) print requests, said JC Smiley, associate director and forensic scientist for the Batesville crime lab.

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Mississippi’s central crime laboratory is in Jackson and three regional laboratories are located in Biloxi, Meridian and Batesville.

The MCL, established in 1977, has been accredited since 2003 by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB), said Smiley.

"There are 287 crime labs in the world that are accredited," he added.

The lab’s forensic service areas include: controlled substance drug identification, latent print examinations, crime scene assistance and toxicology (blood alcohol only).

Erik Frazure, a forensic scientist who works with the controlled substance identification section, performs analytical examinations using the Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrophotometry instrument, which identifies 90 percent of drugs.

"We have to report on what the drug is. About five percent are not real drugs," said Frazure.

Frazure also specializes in the Ultra-Violet Visible (UV-Vis) Spectrophotometry instrument, which can separate all mixtures of drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine.

Ken Gill and Andre Nagoski are both forensic scientists working with the latent print section.

An instrument called AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) converts images of known fingerprints into code and stores them in a computer database.

"The AFIS matches an average of one out of every nine. This helps us make a lot of hits," said Gill.
"The latent print is the cornerstone for the crime lab," said Smiley.

The MCL also offers technical assistance with crime scene response and evidence management.

All evidence collected at the scene by law enforcement agencies can be taken to the crime lab and submitted for analysis, said Dywana Broughton, crime scene analyst and forensic scientist.

The technical assistance section provides 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week coverage to law enforcement agencies throughout the state for crime scene response to violent crimes.

The staff at the Batesville crime lab includes: Dywanna Broughton, forensic scientist/technical assistance section; Scott Fernandez, forensic scientist/controlled substance identification section; Erik Frazure, forensic scientist, controlled substance identification section; and Ken Gill, forensic scientist/latent print section.

Also Teresia Hickmon, forensic scientist/BAC and controlled substance identification section; Jackie Johnson, forensic scientist/technical assistance section; Carol Karr, section chief/controlled substance identification section; Andre Nagoski, forensic scientist/ latent print section; JC Smiley, forensic scientist/associate director; and Kristopher Wingert, forensic scientist/ technical assistance section.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation houses its Cold Case Unit at the Batesville Crime Lab building. Working in that office are Steve Chancellor and Whitney Cantrell-Brownlee.

Changes in effect for sex offenders
Mississippi’s innovative reporting requirements for sex offenders went into effect July 1. It is one of the first of its kind in the nation and could make our state a model for the rest of the country, according to Assistant Public Safety Commissioner, Colonel Marvin E. Curtis Jr.

The law strengthens reporting requirements, enabling the Department of Public Safety to better track sex offenders.

"We are taking advantage of computer technology that is already in place and virtually eliminating the paper monster that the registry has been operating under," Curtis said.

The legislation, adopted during the 2005 regular session, was part of Gov. Barbour’s child protection package.

"This law is another vital link in the chain of protecting the children of this state. It provides the needed mechanism to keep the Department of Public Safety updated and informed on the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders," said Gov. Barbour.

Sex offenders will be required to report to a driver’s license station where they will be issued a card similar to a driver’s license. The offender will also be required to report to a driver’s service station every 90 days and update his/her photograph, employment, school status and residency.

The offender is to report within 10 days of his/her release from prison or from the day the court rules he/she must register with the Sex Offender Registry. If the offender fails to report he/she is deemed to be non-compliant, the driver’s license will be suspended and the local sheriff’s department will be notified.

Sardis could name new Police Chief next week
By Jason C. Mattox

Following a called meeting Thursday night, the Sardis Board of Aldermen is expected to name its next police chief this week.

According to Mayor-elect Alvis "Rusty" Dye, the board picked three candidates from its pool of 10 to re-interview. According to the incoming mayor, a chief should be selected during the first meeting of the new administration on Thursday, July 7.

As was the case with the previous interviews, members of the sitting board and the next administration were on hand for the interviews.

"We needed to get a jump on this," Dye said. "Chief Stepp is ready to retire and go home."

Stepp’s last day in office was Thursday, although he has agreed to assist the city if needed.
"The desire of the new board is to select the best possible chief for our department," Dye said. "And we understand there will be a need to bridge the gap in leadership."

Dye said the board members asked a variety of questions to the top three candidates in hopes of coming to a consensus on the next police chief.

"I believe all of the board members have the information they need to make a good decision for the people of the city," he said. "We had a good pool of candidates, and whoever is chosen will be a good chief."

The new administration consists of Ward 1 Alderman Joseph "JoJo" Still, Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Smith, Ward 3 Alderman Mike Wilson, Ward 4 Alderman Rivers McArthur and Alderman-at-Large Roy Scallorn.

"The selection of a new police chief will be one of the first actions the new administration will make," Dye said.



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