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W.Va. crime labs struggle to cope with demand

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Sylvia Washington’s death was ruled a homicide in April, yet no arrest has been made. The community is growing restless.

Beckley Police Detective Frank Priddy says he is doing all he can to give Washington’s family some peace of mind, but he’s caught in a waiting game. Priddy said he is waiting on a set of phones to be processed by the State Police Crime Lab.

He’s been waiting on these phones for months.

He could be waiting longer.

So why is there such a wait time for a homicide case?

“We are the only full-service crime lab in the state of West Virginia,” Acting Lab Director Sheri Lemons said. “We offer eight disciplines to over 800 agencies.

“When you have that kind of service area, a lack of staff puts you in a bind. We have 40 scientists who work in eight disciplines. When you’re looking at that and you have people leave, that causes more issues.”

Just 40 scientists cover every case in West Virginia, and Lemons says there are turnover issues…

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