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Evidence room investigation still ongoing,

Hopewell, VA

A Virginia State Police investigation into chronic problems within the Hopewell Bureau of Police's property and evidence room still has not been concluded after more than three years of study, authorities said yesterday.

"That investigation is still ongoing," state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. "I really don't have a time frame as to when it will be complete."

More than two years ago, Hopewell Police Chief Steven D. Martin announced the results of an evidence room administrative review showing that confiscated narcotics, drug paraphernalia and other evidence could not be accounted for in 87 city drug cases. Police also couldn't determine what happened to three firearms and nearly $20,000 in cash.

Initially, $85,044 and 12 firearms were reported missing, but authorities eventually located or were able to account for $65,146 of the cash and nine of the guns, Martin said in 2008.

A city spokesman at the time attributed part of the problem to sloppy paperwork.

The internal investigation began in August 2006, after officials discovered more than six months earlier that some evidence had disappeared. That led to the Virginia State Police investigation, which began in August 2007.

In addition, a special grand jury was empanelled to investigate beginning in June 2006, but it was disbanded shortly before former Hopewell Commonwealth's Attorney Anthony N. Sylvester left office after being defeated in the November 2009 elections.

"It wasn't making any further progress," Sylvester said yesterday of the investigation when he left. "For lack of a better term, it was stalemated."

Sylvester's successor, Hopewell Commonwealth's Attorney Richard K. "Rick" Newman, has promised to make public the results of the state police investigation once it becomes available.

Since 2008, the department has invested more than $100,000 in training, a closed-circuit camera system, security locking devices and other improvements in its expanded property and evidence room to correct problems.

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