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DEA takes over missing drugs probe in Beckley

BECKLEY (AP) — A federal agency will take over a criminal investigation into prescription drugs that are missing from the Beckley Police Department’s evidence room, a prosecutor said.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin tells The Register-Herald that the case will now be handled by the Drug Enforcement Agency’s tactical diversion squad.

“We’re not jumping to any conclusions or making any judgments,” Goodwin said. “We are conducting an investigation and wherever that leads us, it leads us.”

The missing drugs prompted Raleigh County Prosecutor Kristen Keller to announce this week that drug-related cases involving evidence housed in the property room in the last 15 months would be dismissed. Evidence rooms serve as holding facilities for items such as money, drugs and guns obtained during investigations.

Goodwin said some federal drug cases could be affected as well. He didn’t know how many prescription pills were missing.

“There is no question that the Beckley Police Department is keeping our community safe,” Goodwin said. “This is a speed bump, if you will. It will not deter the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the prosecutor’s office or the Beckley Police Department from addressing the drug crisis.”

Cases in which drugs were placed at the sheriff’s department or the West Virginia State Police will not be affected, Keller has said.

Police Chief Tim Deems said the police department will still continue with its own investigation.

Keller said turning over the criminal investigation “was very advisable just so there can be no suspicion or rumor or conjecture.”

The technician responsible for the department’s evidence room, Gabriella Brown, no longer has access to the evidence room and took a medical leave of absence Aug. 17, Deems said. Capt. C.D. Mullens is now in charge of evidence.

Keller has urged anyone who has pleaded guilty or who has a pending case to consult with an attorney or contact the prosecutor’s office to see if their case may be affected.

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