Peninsula Daily News, peninsuladailynews.com
BYLINE: Paige Dickerson, Peninsula Daily News
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Clallam County, WA

PORT ANGELES -- The trial of a former Clallam County Sheriff's Office evidence technician on first-degree theft and money laundering charges has been delayed until October because the defense received word of previously unknown evidence.

The trial of Staci L. Allison of Montesano was planned to begin on Monday, but when a box of evidence from the State Patrol surfaced late Friday, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Ken Williams approved a continuance of the trial to allow the defence to review the evidence.

Allison's Superior Court trial will begin Oct. 11. It is expected to last for two weeks.

The Sheriff's Office in November 2006 found 129 empty evidence bags -- which had once contained $51,251.33 -- stuffed in a plastic tube in the evidence room.

Allison is charged with stealing $8,644.19, which is the amount that investigators say they can prove she stole.

Allison's attorney, Ralph Anderson, said he received notice from the Prosecuting Attorney's Office at about 5:30 p.m. Friday saying that a box of evidence was found that had not been handed over previously by the State Patrol, which handled the investigation.

The box contained documents from the State Patrol audit, said both Anderson and Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly.

"What it amounts to is the report I was handed on Monday morning indicated that some of the money that was counted as lost -- and held against her -- was later found," Anderson said.

"Apparently they had found these things and I had no idea they existed.

"I was ready to go to trial, and so was Ms. Allison.

Anderson filed a motion for dismissal, he said.

"What Judge Williams did was, he denied my motion for now, but he wants to see what is in the box for himself."

Anderson said he still hadn't seen the box and that likely he wouldn't until later this week, but the report gave an overview of what he could expect.

Kelly declined to comment on the specifics of what was held in the box, but said that it did "relate to the State Patrol's audit."

Williams found no wrongdoing on the part of the prosecuting attorney's office for not handing the box over earlier.

Kelly said that it was not intentional and that the box was only recently discovered.

"We hand things over as soon as we receive them from law enforcement," Kelly said.

A new jury pool will be used to select the panel.

A State Patrol investigation tied Allison to some of the missing cash when it discovered that she had deleted 49 computer records from the evidence system on May 25, 2006 -- one day before an evidence audit.

Some of the deletions accounted for 18 of the evidence bags found in the tube. Those bags contained $8,644.19, the amount Allison is charged with, court documents say.

It was unclear on Tuesday whether the money that Anderson said had now been accounted for was part of the more than $50,000 that was missing at the time or the $8,644 that she is charged with stealing.

Anderson said he believed the late notification of the box of evidence was indicative of a larger pattern.

"I was lead council on the [Robert Covarrubias murder] case and it is my feeling that at some point the prosecutors will have to improve," he said.

"I'm not making any personal allegations against any one person. I'm saying that there is a consistent problem."

Kelly reiterated that her office turns over evidence as quickly as possible and declined further comment.

Covarrubias was convicted of first-degree murder, but the verdict was overturned by the Court of Appeals on technicalities. Some of those technicalities included prosecutors' delay in turning over evidence.

Covarrubias, who had won a second trial from the state Court of Appeals, instead pleaded guilty July 23 to first-degree murder with sexual motivation in the 2004 death of 15-year-old Melissa Leigh Carter, and was sentenced to life in prison in August.

Anderson said he would determine how or whether the evidence effects his case once he reviews it.

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Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at .

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International Association for Property and Evidence
"Law Enforcement Serving the Needs of Law Enforcement"
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