EVIDENCE ROOM INVENTORY COMPLETE; RESULTS ANNOUNCED
After learning last month that former Act 309 work inmate DAVID HALL had managed to remove evidentiary items from criminal cases from the Sheriff’s Office evidence room, a full investigation was launched to determine how this had occurred and to determine what evidentiary items were missing from the evidence room.
Investigators determined during this investigation that DAVID HALL had managed to cut an 18 inch x 15 inch hole into the wooden wall of the evidence room. The evidence room is located in the former female housing area of the old county jail. The wooden wall surrounds the steel bars remaining in the old jail. After accomplishing this, HALL used a long pole to insert through the hole he had cut and then drag evidentiary items toward him so he could remove them through this hole. Neither DAVID HALL nor any other unauthorized person ever managed to physically enter the confines of the evidence room. The evidence room is on the back side of a storage room that contains cleaning supplies and materials, which Act 309 work inmates routinely accessed to obtain those supplies. There is a small corridor that runs along the side of the evidence room from the storage room. HALL managed to access this corridor in order to reach the wall on the back side of the evidence room where he cut the hole. Evidence from a video surveillance system indicates that DAVID HALL entered the storage room multiple times beginning on the evening of Friday, October 5th through Tuesday, October 9th. Several of these entries were for legitimate reasons related to obtaining cleaning supplies or cleaning tools. There were no cameras inside the storage room itself. The video surveillance system recorded these movements, but the system is not monitored by Sheriff’s personnel after office business hours or during weekends.
During the course of the inventory of the evidence room, Investigators were able to determine the following:
- · There were evidentiary items from 624 criminal cases that had been stored in the evidence room. These were from criminal cases from 2006 to 2012. These included evidence from both misdemeanor cases in District Court and from felony cases in Circuit Court. Each case is assigned a particular incident number.
- · Evidentiary items from 47 of these 624 criminal cases (or 0.075% of those cases) were found to have been removed from the evidence room through the hole that had been cut in the wall. These evidentiary items were methamphetamine, marijuana, other narcotics, prescription pills, and paraphernalia. Evidence from 16 of these 47 cases was recovered from the DARE trailer that is parked behind the Sheriff’s Office. DAVID HALL had hidden these items inside the trailer after he managed to remove them from the hole in the wall of the evidence room. The items that were recovered were still sealed, however some other evidentiary items connected with the same cases were missing. In particular, the missing items from the same cases included point two two eight grams (.228 grams) marijuana, 3.98 grams of methamphetamine, 4 mirtazapine pills, and 3 alprazolam pills. The evidence from the remaining 31 criminal cases has not been found. These included an additional 11.2 grams of methamphetamine, 145.1 grams of marijuana, point one five eight grams (.158 grams) of cocaine, point zero nine nine grams (.099 grams) of heroin, prescription pills (74 identified by individual pill count,16.45 grams by weight), and various paraphernalia.
- · All of the evidentiary items from these 47 cases are believed to have been in small packages that had been placed into a white postal service tote box and then set on the floor of the evidence room. They were moved here to make room on the storage shelves for incoming evidence from new cases. DAVID HALL used a pole to drag the tote box to the hole he had cut, then remove those individual items from the tote box. No other containers, shelves, or articles appeared to have been moved or tampered with.
- · All evidentiary items from all criminal cases currently pending in both District Court and Circuit Court have been located and their integrity verified in their original seal. They are still in the evidence room in their sealed condition and location.
- · All firearms being held in evidence have been inventoried and fully accounted for.
DAVID HALL was returned to the custody of the Arkansas Department of Corrections on October 10, 2012 after Jailers found methamphetamine among his personal belongings while conducting a search of his housing area the day before, October 9th. The investigation has been continuing since that time. Sheriff’s Investigators procured a felony bench warrant charging HALL with multiple felony crimes. He will be returned to answer those charges in Circuit Court at a later date.
Since the incident occurred, the Sheriff’s Office has undertaken measures to help ensure that no further such incidents will occur. These steps include placing further restrictions on the movement of Act 309 work inmates, limiting the hours of the day when they are allowed to work outside the confines of the detention center, and revoking their access to particular areas of the Sheriff’s Office complex unless escorted by a guard. Additional video surveillance has been established in and around the area of the evidence room itself. The access points to the areas surrounding the evidence room have also been reinforced and made more secure. We believe these additional safeguards will help eliminate the potential for a similar incident to occur in the future.
The results of the investigation and evidence room inventory have been submitted to Prosecuting Attorney Ronald Kincade for his review. Prosecutor Kincade has personally examined the evidence room itself and is finalizing his review of the incident. He has indicated preliminarily to the Sheriff’s Office that he is satisfied with the thoroughness of the investigation and corrective measures being undertaken. We are awaiting a formal pronouncement from his office.
/s/ John F. Montgomery,
Baxter County Sheriff