| 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.
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.