Sheriff's evidence room is a cache of oddities:

Lewiston Morning Tribune (Idaho), Tribune Publishing Co.
BYLINE: JOELYN HANSEN

Bonneville County, ID

KKK robe, guns, drugs, burglary tools are just a few of the things

IDAHO FALLS - The Bonneville County Sheriff's Office has no clear answer as to why there's a Ku Klux Klan robe in the evidence and property room, officers just know it's there.

A resident found the robe, which dates from around the 1970s, on the side of a county road years ago, along with a KKK book and a T-shirt imprinted with the hate group's symbol, Sgt. James Foster said.

Foster said its owner never came forward to claim it. He ultimately plans to make it part of the department's education programs. "My intentions are to use it in a training class on hate crimes," he said.

Although a KKK robe may stand out as unexpected in the evidence and property room, Foster said, it's certainly not alone in doing so.

Foster said the sheriff's office has been in possession of a variety of unusual objects - whether gathered through normal criminal investigations or found items turned in by citizens.

There's the expected array of burglary tools, lock picks, car parts, guns, drugs, drug paraphernalia, and DNA and blood samples - preserved in large refrigerators - linked to criminal investigations.

At one time, the sheriff's office had a human skull that was drudged up from the Palisades Reservoir.

Foster said the skull was tested for DNA identification but didn't match any of the county's open missing persons or drowning victim cases. The skull is now in the possession of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in hopes agents will be able to make an identification.

The Idaho Falls Police Department has also collected its share of items. It has stored anything from silly string to car bumpers taken from hit-and-run accidents to people's underwear.

Right now, there are about 8,000 pieces of evidence, including a wheel detectives took from the car Frank Crazythunder was riding in when he fired shots at Sgt. Steve Poulter in March.

Not too long ago, Capt. Mark McBride said the Idaho Falls Police had temporary custody of two urns filled with human ashes until officers could find the next of kin.

It took some savvy investigative work to accomplish the reunion, but it was finally done.

Idaho State Police Technician Katie Dennent said the Idaho Falls Police will occasionally receive unusual items, like statues, found along the highways.

McBride said the Idaho Falls Police Department eventually throws out abandoned property or evidence no longer needed. With limited space, McBride said unnecessary items can't be stored forever.

"For a long time, law enforcement wasn't real good about purging the evidence, they just kept filling it up," he said.

State law requires that found property be held for at least 60 days. At the end of the time period, McBride said anything of value is put into an auction. The city used to hold auctions but now uses the services of propertyroom.com.

Foster said the law does allow for items valued less than $25 to be disposed of sooner.

In the coming days, Foster said the department is getting ready to clear out a stash of guns. Foster said people who know they have guns there should come and claim them. Even convicted felons, prohibited from legally possessing guns, can transfer ownership of seized guns to a friend or family member.

McBride said evidence is treated differently. Drugs and drug paraphernalia are never returned. In a pending or open case, evidence is kept until a conviction. Officers keep evidence in closed cases until the defendant's appeals process is complete.

"It could be as little as 42 days after a conviction or once a life sentence is served," he said.

For example, the Idaho Falls police still have evidence from the Paul Ezra Rhoades kidnapping case from 1987.

Rhoades was sentenced to be executed but remains on death row at the Idaho Maximum Security Prison.

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