DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware State Police said Friday that they are investigating discrepancies involving drug evidence sent to the state medical examiner's office for testing.
Authorities said the investigation began earlier this month after officials with the Department of Justice discovered that evidence was missing during a drug trial in Kent County.
According to state police, a subsequent investigation detected discrepancies involving several law enforcement agencies between drug evidence submitted to the medical examiner's Controlled Substances Lab and that returned to police evidence lockers in sealed envelopes after analysis and testing.
"There's an indication right now that we have some things that are missing that shouldn't be missing," said Hal Brown, deputy director of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
"Effective today, we have stopped any testing so that an audit can be completed of everything that is here," Brown said. "We have welcomed an investigation to determine exactly, when, how, where and which agencies are involved."
Brown said it was unclear whether the evidence is missing from the medical examiner's office or from other agencies.
But state police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack said a preliminary investigation has not found any indication that evidence was compromised prior to being received by the medical examiner's office or after being returned to police agencies.
"Right now, the focus of the investigation is on the Controlled Substances Lab," he said.
State police said investigators were looking at drug evidence being tampered with, missing or substituted. Authorities did not say what types of drugs or which law enforcement agencies were involved in the investigation.
State prosecutor Kathleen Jennings said in a prepared statement that DOJ officials have taken additional measures to ensure the integrity of evidence in drug prosecutions, but she did not provide any details.
"In addition, we have notified defense counsel and the courts of this matter in order to ensure that the due process rights of the accused are protected," Jennings said.
Meanwhile, state police said that because of the ongoing investigation, the Controlled Substances Lab, which handled about 6,000 drug evidence cases a year, has discontinued drug analysis.
"Operations are not shut down. I would say they're suspended for a short period of time," said Brown, who expects that the lab could resume drug analyses next week.
"In the meantime, we have plenty of other work to do," he said. "There's volumes of reports to be written."