WVSP investigating loss of evidence

ELKINS – It played out like a scene from the television drama “Law and Order” – on the eve of a murder trial, the prosecutor learns the alleged murder weapon has been lost. The situation was not actors on TV reading their lines, however; it was real life in the courtroom Friday in the case of Thomas Chevy Vas, 18, of Dailey.

Vas is charged with fatally stabbing a classmate, 17-year-old Dustin “Dusty” White, at a Tygarts Valley High School football game on Oct. 26, 2012. Jury selection was to begin today; however, Vas’ trial was continued until December after officials announced in court Friday they could not locate the knife allegedly used in the stabbing, or the blood-stained clothing worn by Vas and White that night.

According to testimony Friday, the knife was believed to be in the evidence locker at the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police.

The missing clothing was believed to have been sent to the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory in Charleston.

When contacted by the Inter-Mountain, Capt. D.P. Reider, troop commander in Elkins, declined to shed any light on these developments.

“This matter is currently part of an active court case, court proceeding and I can’t comment on evidence. I can let you know that the matter is under investigation internally so I can determine what exactly transpired and where exactly any problems may have occurred and why this happened,” Reider said. “It is being looked into very thoroughly and will be handled appropriately once I can figure out what happened.”

Reider said normally the primary investigator would take custody of evidence and log it into the evidence room. If needed, it would then be forwarded to the lab for analysis. It would then be returned to the primary investigator and secured in the evidence room.

Reider explained individual circumstance would determine how an item is transported to the lab and returned. Typically, items would be sent by U.S. mail, but in an emergency could be hand-carried by a trooper. Because some items can’t be put in the mail, there are several different mechanisms that can be used, he explained.

In an e-mail to The Inter-Mountain, Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker said he was surprised to learn the evidence was missing.

“I am currently looking into all of the facts surrounding this situation, but have full faith that the West Virginia State Police will determine what happened and take reasonable measures to ensure that this does not happen again,” Parker wrote.

Following the motion hearing Friday, defense attorney James Hawkins said the defense next plans to make a motion to dismiss the charges.

“One of the motions you can anticipate is filing a motion to dismiss based on the loss of the evidence,” Hawkins said. “Somebody, obviously, has dropped the ball here and we intend to find out what happened.”

Senior Status Judge Thomas Keadle set Dec. 1 for jury selection in the Vas case, with the trial scheduled for the rest of the week.