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Assumption agency hires new evidence custodian
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BYLINE: Raymond Legendre, Staff Writer

Assumption Parish, LA

THIBODAUX — As an investigation into potential wrongdoing in its evidence room continues, the Assumption Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday that it has hired a former State Police lieutenant to improve procedures for storing and maintaining evidence.

Among his many duties, Thane Matis, a retired State Police lieutenant who has 28 years of law-enforcement experience, will install the Assumption Sheriff’s Office’s newly purchased JusticeTrax property and evidence software and enter the evidence data into the new tracking system. He also will be asked to ensure the integrity of evidence from the time it is collected until a case goes to trial and testify at trials about the chain of custody of the evidence.

“The healing process has begun, and we’re moving forward,” said Assumption Sheriff Mike Waguespack.

Matis is entering a messy situation that could result in criminal charges for his predecessor and have major implications for hundreds of drug cases in Assumption Parish.

Lt. Louis Lambert, who served as the Assumption Sheriff’s Office’s evidence custodian for seven years, is being investigated by the State Police after he allegedly “mishandled” evidence in a drug case that was scheduled to begin trial in April. Officials have not released details as to how Lambert allegedly mishandled the drugs or what type of drugs were involved.

Lambert, who is suspended with pay, has not been charged with a crime. That could change based on State Police’s investigatory findings, Waguespack said.

It is still too early to predict when State Police’s investigation will conclude, said Sgt. Markus Smith, a State Police spokesman. “We want it to be completed as soon as it can,” he said, “but we don’t want to rush it and miss something that’s key.”

A separate audit that could affect hundreds of drug cases in Assumption Parish also remains open. The Public Agency Training Council, based out of Indianapolis, is performing an inventory on the items inside the Assumption Sheriff’s Office’s evidence room in Labadieville.

The Assumption Sheriff’s Office is temporarily keeping evidence in a vault inside its main office in Napoleonville. That evidence will be moved to the agency’s criminal investigations office in Labadieville once all investigations into Lambert’s conduct are completed.

A deputy who has worked with evidence since allegations against Lambert arose will assist Matis, Waguespack said. That deputy’s name was not immediately available.

“We’ve got our boots on the ground implicating a new system,” Waguespack said. He added that he expected a complete re-inventory, an overhaul of policy and procedures and the installation of a new evidence database within three months.

Staff Writer Raymond Legendre can be reached at 448-7617 or . Follow him on Twitter @cometcrime.

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