Last week in Aurora, Colorado, Police Chief Dan Oates announced that evidence from 48 different sexual assault cases was destroyed by accident. The evidence from 2009 cases, had been destroyed during a six-month period beginning in January 2013 because of a “system breakdown” said Oates. The department continues to look for where the breakdown occurred and how many more cases could be affected. The victims of the crimes are being notified — many who don’t even know their evidence is destroyed.
The police department has informed some victims whose evidence was destroyed of the “grievous mistake,” and that they may no longer be able to prosecute their crimes. In one case an arrest seemed certain, but without the evidence, the D.A’s office cannot proceed. DNA evidence in a second case had matched two separate sexual assault cases in Denver before it was destroyed. According to Chief Oates, even if a suspect is ever charged in the Denver cases, it will be difficult to prosecute the Aurora case.
“Obviously, this is not a good day for the department,” Oates said during a news conference Tuesday.
In 18 of the cases, the lead investigator had recommended the evidence be destroyed, but a required review of the recommendation didn’t happen as required, according to an Aurora Police Department press release.
In the other 30 cases, an officer assigned to light duty destroyed evidence in error after not following department procedures.
Oates said a panel of experts, including members of the district attorney’s and attorney general’s offices, will review the situation and make recommendations to prevent anything like this from reoccurring.
The Aurora Police Department is at the center of two of Colorado’s most talked about cases, the Aurora theater shooting which took place nearly a year ago and the 1993 Chuck E. Cheese’s murder case, in which convicted killer Nathan Dunlap was recently granted an indefinite stay of execution by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The evidence in those cases was not affected.