Allegheny County Crime Lab No Longer Backlogged

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The situation of backlogged, unanalyzed evidence at the Allegheny County Crime Lab has been turned around.

Federal grants have allowed the forensic scientists at the county’s new crime lab to analyze and process the evidence under the watchful eyes of the current Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams.

“We had a thousand cases that we went through,” he said.

The county purchased state-of-the art technology, including a DNA sorter which can prepare more than a dozen samples for analysis at one time and a scanning microscope allowing lab techs to quickly indemnity blood and sperm in sexual assaults.

And they’ve paid off in solving violent crime.

For example, there was a shooting in broad daylight on Smithfield Street three years ago. Witnesses said the assailant had a beard and dreadlocks which turned out to be a disguise later found by police.

“We’ve got a disguise composed of a wig and a mask,” Dr. Williams said. “We extracted DNA from that.”

The DNA run against other DNA that had been recently processed by the lab came up with a positive match. The evidence led to the arrest of Terrell Childs who was convicted of murder on the basis of that evidence.

“It’s crucial to help solve crimes that we know have been committed and know we’ve got people that we can identify,” Dr. Williams said.

The lab is now staying current on DNA and other crime analysis even though the demands are greater.

“We analyze more cases, we complete more cases, we report out on more cases every year,” Dr. Williams added.

More than just efficiency, it’s a matter of public safety. Finding out just what was in that backlog means that murders and rapists can’t hide there anymore.

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  • HasARealPHD

    This report defined what I think of as a typical “fluff” piece of reporting. As a previous employee of the lab, there is no possible way that ANY section of the lab has no backlog at all. Your headline is completely false and I would call to check your facts. While some more equipment may have contributed to getting some cases finished the backlog at the lab is definitely very present in each section. This piece completed its goal of making the laboratory look good while completely missing the story that warrants reporting. If the lab is operating smoothly and the backlog is no longer an issue then why is the county propsing a wage freeze and loss of longevity to all of its scientists who process the evidence there? The scientists at the lab are already woefully underpaid compared to other crime labs in the nation and the last statistics I saw had us in the bottome 10% of all labs. That is pathetic for a multmillion dollar forensic laboratory as prestigious as the one in pittsburgh. KDKA should check the turnover rate and the record of recent hires. Why did they leave? Why was the next person hired and then that person quit after getting nearly to the end of training…who did they know? Many of the problems are derived from the fact that people in charge do not possess the knowledge necessary to run a scientific laboratory efficiently or the initiative to relate to educated scientists that they employ. Look at the labs record for training and advancing their scientists and it will be evident where the problem lies. The piece also did a great job of conveying how management regards their scientists when it referred to a D-Level scientist as a “lab tech”. These are scientists with Master’s degrees and should be treated with the respect they deserve. “Techs” do not testify in federal investigations or actively participate in investigations as the scientists at the lab do. But this is just how they are treated by management, as disposable, replaceable, uneducated “techs”. Upper management at the lab is just lucky that the scientists who handle the evidence for the county are highly educated and well trained despite this. It s a shame when some of the lowest paid scientists have greater knowledge and education than the people who REALLY call the shots at the lab…and it may not be who you would think….

  • anon

    I know a person in the crime lab and showed him this story. I think he actually laughed out loud. He said they are not even CLOSE to eliminating the backlog in the sections.

  • Allegheny County Crime Lab Goes High-Tech, Gets State-Of-The-Art Equipment « CBS Pittsburgh

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