An Oregon crime lab technician is accused of stealing prescription pills and other drugs, and replacing them with over-the-counter medication, or “dummy pills,” in an investigation confirmed by Oregon State Police over the weekend.
Nika Larsen, 35, is suspected of tampering with evidence, according to reports, and has been put on administrative leave until further notice.
“This strikes at the heart of our justice system,” John Hummel, the Deschutes County District Attorney, told Forensic Magazine in an exclusive interview.
Prosecutors and those close to the investigation say that some 1,500 cases will be subject to review, although some forensic experts say that number could be significantly higher.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Kenn Meneely, a retired state crime lab supervisor and independent forensic consultant, told The Oregonian. “That doesn’t account for all cases where there was evidence in the locker. When you have access to evidence, every case that came in that facility is now in question.”
Further details about Larsen and the investigation have not yet been released by authorities. However, the Oregon State Police did confirm that a second analyst is under investigation for possible misconduct dating back over a decade.
Jeff Dovci has been cited in local media reports as the second analyst, and is accused of overstating evidence at the bench in a 2005 murder case—the defendant in that case was convicted on multiple charges including five counts of aggravated murder, and two counts of first degree murder. Under a later Supreme Court ruling, the case was to be retried in 2012, according to the state police statement, when new “exculpatory information” was brought to light.
“The material included potentially exculpatory information related to the Lawson case and some documents that could potentially cast doubt on the analyst’s future testimony,” the Oregon State Police said in a written statement. In April of 2014, the agency notified 20 district attorney’s offices of the issues surrounding the former employee.
Dovci has said that the accusations filed against him are grossly exaggerated, and that his retirement in 2013 was completely unrelated.
“I didn’t steal anything, didn’t falsify results — I didn’t do anything like that,” Dovci told The Oregonian. “It’s a matter of opinion about what was written on a piece of paper.”
The State Police said that both cases are open criminal investigations: “In both cases involving the Bend and Central Point analysts, disclosures were made to the appropriate district attorney offices and investigations were initiated.”
According to the agency, the Oregon State Police Forensic Services Division laboratories are accredited by the ASCLD, and first underwent the voluntary accreditation process in 1985.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery