The process of examining crime evidence takes time

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - It's not been more than four weeks since Jacque Waller vanished. The nightmare for her family began on June 1.

Waller was last seen around 4 that afternoon in Jackson. Family members in Ste. Genevieve reported her missing at 11:30 that night. Waller's estranged husband Clay made his own report around midnight.

On June 2, Jacque's Honda Pilot turned up on Interstate 55 at the 105 mile marker. Police took her SUV, and her husband's truck and attached boat on a trailer into evidence.

Then on June 6, authorities say they suspected foul play, and named Clay Waller as a person of interest. The next day, Waller stopped providing information to police.

Weeks later, authorities, family and friends continued to look for Jacque. By June 26 and 27, we saw visible efforts on the ground, and in the air with special search crews.

Authorities tell us they've collected a lot of key evidence and sent it off to both state and federal crime labs. But, getting that evidence back takes time. Inside the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Crime Lab in Cape Girardeau, scientists say the process of examining evidence can be long and tedious. But, they also say it's all about getting it right, and getting the answers that lead to convictions.

"I can remember to this day he brought it in and said this is going to crack this case," says David Warren. He has several decades of police experience. Many of those years, he spent analyzing finger prints in crime labs. He's processed evidence for some of the Heartland's biggest cases. He says it took almost three decades from the time a certain palm print came into the lab to the day one of the Heartland's most notorious criminals saw justice: Serial killer, Timothy Krajcir.

"Thirty years later I was able to be involved and help make the actual identification," said Warren.

Warren says prints are a tried and true method in forensics. Other than using computers, the methods are much like they were 100 years ago. Once they lift a print, they are dusted or sprayed to get a good look at the ridge detail.

These days they are scanned into a computer and compared with a few sets of eyes to find an exact match.

"If we find one discrepancy we're done," said Warren. "We make an elimination."

Warren says finding all the clues can take time. If he finds 30 prints on a piece of evidence, he must analyze every one.

"I might be able to work a case out in 15 minutes or I may take two weeks. It just depends on the volume of evidence in a case," said Warren.

"It's not like you see on television," said Shaminie Athinarayanan. Athinarayanan analyzes DNA evidence, like blood from crime scenes.

"Usually the goal is to associate a victim to a crime scene or a suspect to that crime scene," she said. "Anything involving a homicide takes priority. It could take weeks or it could take months. It just depends on how much evidence is in that batch."

State crime lab director for the Missouri Highway Patrol says our lab in Cape Girardeau stays busy. "That lab is about the third busiest out of eight," said Marbaker. "Our yearly flow is about 25,000 cases. That lab sees about 25% of those cases."

Marbaker says because they saw a need for more resources in Cape, two scientists were added here.

"Our priority is to turn out the highest quality of work in the timeliest manner possible," said Marbaker. "It's hard to say how far down the line is at any certain point in time. The flow of law enforcement and priority cases is ever changing as crimes are committed."

As for Jacque Waller's case, evidence was sent to multiple labs. For now, no evidence shows a crime has been committed. Chief James Humphreys of the Jackson Police Department says local and federal authorities are very anxious to get the evidence processed and returned.

Meanwhile, there's a variety of Heartland mysteries in which families and authorities are anticipating forensic and DNA analysis. Just to name a few: In Ripley county authorities say they are waiting for key evidence in the Piatt Homicide investigation.

In Scott County, Sheriff Rick Walter says a lab in the Netherlands is still processing evidence in the Michelle Lawless case.

Also, the family of Elizabeth Gill, Missouri's oldest missing person's case has waited 9 months for DNA testing to be completed on women who could be their sister.

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