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Former police employee pleads guilty in thefts

The Daily Times,
BYLINE: Steve Garrison,

Farmington, NM>

2016-02-15_police employee pleads guilty_01
(Photo: Courtesy of San Juan County Adult Detention Center)

FARMINGTON — Ashley Goodvoyce, the 28-year-old former Farmington police evidence technician accused in October 2014 of stealing pills and cash from the department's evidence room, has pleaded guilty to multiple felony offenses.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said Monday Goodvoyce pleaded guilty Feb. 3 to embezzlement, forgery, five counts of tampering with public records and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.

O'Brien said Goodvoyce faces a total of 15 years in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 31, but his office is not seeking prison time.

Instead, O'Brien said his office will not oppose a sentence of five years supervised probation for Goodvoyce, who has no prior criminal history.

If Goodvoyce violates the terms of her probation, she could then be sentenced to prison, according to O'Brien.

"Our main concern was exposing her to a lot of time, so that if she does not resolve her substance abuse problem, she could face up to 15 years in prison," O'Brien said.

Goodvoyce's attorney, Arlon Stoker, said Monday his client did not need drug counseling, but she was seeing a therapist to address other emotional issues.

Goodvoyce was charged Oct. 17, 2014, in Farmington Magistrate Court with dozens of felony offenses on allegations she stole thousands of dollars in cash and more than 600 prescription pills from the Farmington Police Department's evidence room.

Prosecutors feared at the time the missing evidence could imperil dozens of pending criminal cases, but O'Brien said Monday that turned out to not be the case.

"The method she was using to not get caught was she was taking the pills out of packages that were already slated for destruction," O'Brien said. "The cases had taken place and the judge had filed an order for destruction."

O'Brien said he was not aware of any cases being dismissed as a result of the thefts.

Goodvoyce's actions nonetheless caused Farmington police officials to reevaluate how the department processes evidence.

The department now employs two full-time evidence technicians who are monitored in the evidence room by nine motion-activated cameras.

Highly sensitive items, such as cash, drugs, jewelry and guns, are stored in a single room at the department, locked behind doors that require both a security card and a key to open.

Evidence marked for destruction is also now kept under lock and key and new policies govern how officers handle collected evidence.

Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said Monday the department's internal affairs division is currently conducting a routine audit of the evidence room.

Stoker claimed Monday evidence went missing at the police department before Goodvoyce was hired.

"This was an issue that needed to be addressed long before now," he said. "At least now it has been addressed, and maybe it was a good thing it happened."

Hebbe said he was satisfied with Goodvoyce receiving a sentence of probation.

"She has already lost her job and suffered a lot with friends and family over this incident, and it just highlights to me what a shame the whole thing was," Hebbe said. "It was bad for her, it was bad for her family and it was bad for us and the community."

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