INSIDE LOOK: Union County crime lab’s crucial role in putting criminals behind bars quicker

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Union County is working to speed up justice with its crime lab and newly accredited FIELDS of evidence, which means faster results while putting criminals behind bars and getting innocent people out.

Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz spoke with forensic chemists, crime scene investigators, and law enforcement officers on Thursday about the work they are doing, which is helping to cut back on the state lab’s backlog.

The digital forensic lab has equipment used to analyze things, such as text messages, which could lead to an arrest.

“It’s key for us to create a timeline of that victim’s last hours and this room does a great job of providing us that,” said Lt. James Maye.

The work in the digital forensic lab can help in cases of fentanyl poisoning to identify drug dealers.

“This evidence is used to determine which source provided the narcotics that ended the life of a victim,” Maye said.

The crime lab’s most recent accreditation was in the fall of 2023, which allowed officials to process fingerprints and blood alcohol testing on-site.

The blood alcohol analysis, which could be crucial in a DWI arrest, starts there where vials are filled and prepped for testing.

“The alcohol that’s in the blood will slowly go into the air above the sample,” said forensic chemist, Dayla Rich.

“So, you test not the blood, but the air that is coming out of it?” Goetz asked.

“Correct,” said Rich.

Running those tests in-house can provide results weeks or even months faster. Other local law enforcement agencies can use the lab too.

“Sheriff (Eddie) Cathey is encouraging everyone to bring us your phones, your blood, anything we can do to get criminals off the street bring it to us we’ll take care of it,” said Lt. Maye.

In the coming months, they’re hoping to be accredited in other fields of evidence analysis, including DNA, blood drug toxicology, and seized drugs.

The lab will not conduct autopsies on-site. That will be the responsibility of the regional medical examiner’s office.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office hopes to eventually do postmortem-blood-drug testing for death by distribution cases.

Read the full article and watch the video on the WSOC TV9 website.