Crime Lab delay
Was the rape of a Marianna schoolteacher less important to the state than an assault on a Little Rock TV personality? “Couldn't be farther from the truth,” state Crime Laboratory Director Kermit Brooks Channell II said Tuesday.
Raising the question was the revelation that the lab took seven months to process DNA from the Marianna case, compared to five weeks in the case of KATV anchor Anne Pressly, 26, who died six days after a brutal beating in her home Oct. 20.
Channell said the lab gives priority to cases of brutal crime “brought to our attention” in which there is no suspect. When there is a suspect, he explained, “You know that law enforcement has an eye on them or has apprehended them, and they're sitting in jail.” By focusing on crimes with no suspects, the lab can get to potentially violent offenders untracked by police, he said. He acknowledged that the notoriety of the case “does factor in.” He said the lab's two-month backlog was to account for the slow processing time in the Marianna case.
A suspect was listed in information the Marianna police provided the lab in the April rape, but the results cleared that person. Little Rock and Marianna police compared results from both cases last week when DNA matched and identified Curtis Vance, 28, who was arrested Nov. 26. Channell said the crime lab could not have prevented the attack on Pressly with more timely results in the Marianna case.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will put a hold on issuing permits for commercial land-application sites, where waste from natural gas drilling is stored and then spread across the ground. There are 13 such sites around the state. Inspection records exist for 10 and each site has violated environmental regulations.
Agency Director Teresa Marks says the agency will not issue any new permits until a study of the environmental impact of the existing sites.
“We're going to be sampling these land application facilities and testing the soil content and the water from adjacent waterways just to make sure we've got a better grip on the actual impact,” Marks says.
The study will take between four and six months. Marks says the decision was reached after a series of talks with Gov. Mike Beebe, whose office has received many letters about the sites.
“The key thing for ADEQ is to get some thorough data on what specific impacts those sites are having, especially now that they've been around for a few years,” Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said.
Marks says the problem is the Fayetteville Shale activity came along suddenly and Arkansas doesn't have the infrastructure that states like Texas and Oklahoma have to deal with waste.
“We have a waste stream here and we need to be able to assure the people of Arkansas that that's going to be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner,” Marks says.
Marks also says ADEQ will introduce legislation to require owners of commercial land-application sites to have financial assurance. Currently owners are not required to post a bond in case something goes awry, as is the case for other types of permits.