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Missing evidence items prompt state investigation into McArthur Police

The Logan Daily News,
BYLINE: TYLER BUCHANAN For The Logan Daily News,

McArthur, OH

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A McArthur Police cruiser is seen in the Wild Turkey Festival Grande Parade. Courier file photo

McARTHUR – State authorities will soon be investigating the McArthur Police Department as more than a dozen items are allegedly missing from the police’s evidence room.

The announcement was made public at McArthur Village Council’s recent meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16. In front of Council, Mayor Jim Wooddell outlined a preliminary investigation that has been going on behind the scenes for several weeks now. The timeline, which Council members say they were previously unaware of, was described by the mayor in written correspondence between he and Acting Chief Michael Kimmerling.

On Nov. 24, Kimmerling first called the mayor informing him there were issues with the police department’s evidence room. On that call and in a written request the next day, Wooddell told the acting chief to begin investigating.

Weeks passed and Kimmerling responded on Dec. 14 with his findings. He cites three separate instances of potential wrongdoing:

An item is allegedly missing from a specific case’s evidence locker, although that case was not revealed publicly. Officers Shane Towe and Chris Claytor have allegedly been trying to search alongside Chief Tony Wood for “some time,” with no luck. (As of Oct. 31, Wood has been off duty due to medical leave). Kimmerling said he was notified of this missing item when he was promoted to acting chief on Oct. 31.

On Nov. 24, Kimmerling was directed by the Vinton County Prosecutor’s Office to return an item of evidence to an individual. He then discovered “the evidence bag labeled as having contained the item was empty.”

While searching for those two items, Kimmerling allegedly discussed with Sgt. Chuck Miller an item of evidence seized by MPD back in February 2015. Kimmerling went back to verify the item was still in the property room, but learned it too was allegedly missing.

“During a search of the property room,” the letter continues, “I also identified 22 items of similar import. Of these, I discovered that 10 items were missing or unaccounted for.”

Kimmerling added he has removed the remaining 12 items in that grouping and secured them in another location. It is not clear what type of items are involved.

Kimmerling and Wooddell did not say whether they believed the missing evidence was due to an outside theft or involved anyone affiliated (current or past) with the police department.

The group of Kimmerling, Wood, Wooddell and former MPD Lt. Chuck Boyer met at the police department to assess the situation. They collectively decided that Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation should be called in to help. Boyer himself was ousted from his role as Hamden Police Chief earlier in 2015 for ethics violations, though he has since been rehired to that position.

BCI was called on Dec. 11 and is expected to begin investigating MPD within the next two weeks.

Until then, Kimmerling said he has already made significant changes to the evidence room to ward off further missing items. Access to the evidence room has been limited to just he and Claytor; a camera was installed and will be regularly monitored; new locks were purchased; and a new property log was designed for better tracking of evidence going in and out of the building.

“While no system is foolproof, it is my sincere belief that the changes made and proposed will correct the problem that have allowed this incident to occur,” Kimmerling wrote.

At the meeting, both Kimmerling and Wooddell said they would not be commenting further until BCI completes its investigation. They declined to give any additional details as to what was missing or if there are any suspects.

“I don’t want to do anything that will in any way jeopardize their investigation,” Kimmerling said. “This is an ongoing investigation. We don’t want to screw it up.”

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Acting Police Chief Mike Kimmerling Courier file photo

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