Lack of Funding Leaves Crime Lab Unmanned After Hours

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Investigators found 16-year-old Angela Allen's body Friday. They could not confirm it was her until Tuesday. The Arkansas State Crime Lab says it is backed up and employees do not normally work weekends.

"They have business hours like everyone else," said Major Kevin Nickson, of the Sebastian County Sheriff's Department, "We did put a rush on it and they got to it immediately."

Executive Director Kermit Channell says employees at the crime lab do not typically work weekends. Monday was a holiday. The lab says it had people in Saturday because of Allen's case, but investigators say the autopsy did not happen until Tuesday.

"It's just a function of money," said Governor Mike Beebe, "You pay them for the weekends and you pay them for longer and this is the first time I can recall that it's been an issue."

Channell says the lab has people on call over the weekend that pick up bodies. The agency handles cases from all over the state.

Channell says they do a good job with the employees they have, but they would need more staff to operate around the clock. "I really don't think that you know the state of Arkansas could actually afford to do that, to run a crime laboratory 24-7," said Channell.

Chanell says gathering evidence takes time. "We take pride in our work and we want to be thorough," he said, "We never want to sacrifice the quality of our work just to get something done quickly."

Major Nickson says preliminary autopsy results come back quickly, but the actual report or paperwork can take weeks. He said, "It's a really good asset to have, but sometimes you have to be patient with them."

Channell says back in 2005 the crime lab had between 16,000 and 18,000 backlogged cases. Today he says the lab has about 4,200 backlogged cases.