By Associated Press - Saturday, August 1, 2020

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - A county sheriff in southern New Mexico has criticized a former deputy after boxes containing police evidence and case files were found in the deputy’s foreclosed home.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart called it a failure in leadership while speaking at a press conference Friday at the County Commission Chambers in Las Cruces, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

Former Doña Ana County sheriff’s Deputy Vincent Lopez, 54, was taken into custody following an investigation that began when a cleaning crew discovered 72 pieces of case evidence May 23 after going to prepare the home for resale.

The evidence included firearms, ammunition, knives, clothing and DNA swabs relating to nine separate cases, police said. Stewart said none of the evidence was entered into the department’s evidence vault.

“This was a betrayal of trust - of public trust. And, when we found out about it on that fateful day in May, there was no hesitation on our part to do everything we could to bring cases to closure, to bring cases to prosecution, and out of this we wanted to make sure that Mr. Lopez was held accountable,” Stewart said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Gerald Byers said that none of the cases can be prosecuted because of issues with the evidence and statute of limitations.

“We can’t even speculate about a motive,” Stewart said.

Lopez was charged with nine counts of tampering with public records and nine counts of tampering with evidence and booked into the Doña Ana County Detention Center on a no-bond hold.

Online records don’t list an attorney for Lopez.

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