KSP Crime Lab backlog keeping thousands of cases in limbo

Kentucky State Police Crime Lab manager says lack of funding is causing major backlog in toxicology cases, leaving cases at a standstill within the system. 

A family reached out to WHAS11 after they didn't receive results from a crash that killed their daughter. WHAS11 learned they weren't alone. Thousands of cases are sitting in the lab, not being tested because of a funding shortage.

LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- Thousands of cases are in limbo across Kentucky right now, all because of a state backlog. The evidence is sitting at the Kentucky State Crime Lab sometimes for months and months before the cases can move forward.

"This is the worst thing anybody could go through," Ray Tim said.

For this grieving father, getting the truth seemed impossible.

"The first time I went to the crash site I was just looking for a part of Amber's car and I found a piece of fiberglass and I was able to make two "A"s out of it. I made one to give to her mother. And I made a necklace out of mine. And this is all that we have," Ray said.

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All he has left of his daughter now hangs around his neck.

His daughter, 26-year-old Amber Lynne Tingle and her friend 30-year-old Billie Rose Watts were killed in August when police say a driver crossed into oncoming traffic, crashing into their car head-on.

Watts leaves behind a young daughter. Tingle never got the chance to marry or have children. 

Ray said, "I was calling the Commonwealth's Attorney's office once a week- no paperwork in. I would call my investigator at the KSP office and he would just say its continuous."

It took 4 months to get the toxicology results back on the other driver from the state crime lab.

"It’s just not fair to the family because every day you're living that same scene. You can't even try to begin to close or move on. It's just up in the air," Ray said.

When Ray felt like he was never going to get answers he called WHAS11, and WHAS11 called the state crime lab.

"It’s not acceptable," Laura Sudkamp said.

Sudkamp runs operations for Kentucky State Police Forensic Crime Lab. They work every case from every police agency within the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

"It was taking us close to nine months at one point to get cases turned around," Sudkamp said.

She said the issues date back to 2013 when steam filled the toxicology crime lab, frying every piece of equipment. The equipment is still being replaced.

"We work that evidence but unfortunately we're overwhelmed right now with the resources that we have," Sudkamp said.

Sudkamp describes an uphill battle.

A lack of funding, a staffing shortage and a huge backlog on top of a caseload that has doubled over the last decade.

She said, "What happens when someone who's waiting on a DUI result gets in a car again while they're waiting for court and they drive again and they kill somebody. I can't take that home, my  analysts can't take that home with them."

For the men and women working tirelessly to turn tests, the effects of the backlog weigh on them.

"There's times they feel guilty going on vacation because they know that there are victims they know that there are families waiting on these results," Sudkamp said.

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Families like Tim Ray, who are craving closure from an agency he feels is broken.

"Doing what we can for you, baby," he said.

WHAS11 reached out to the Jefferson County Attorney's Office, a local judge, and a local police department to find out if they are affected by the crime lab backlog, and they said it hurts because it keeps them from solving and prosecuting cases.

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