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Special Report: Keeping the Evidence
BYLINE: Brittney Hopper
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El Paso County, CO

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO -- In this special report, FOX21 News learns that having hard evidence is critical to getting a conviction in court. That's why the El Paso County Sheriff's Office takes extreme measures when handling evidence.

“Someone sent a guy a grenade in the mail and when he opened it, it blew up and it killed him and it damaged the car pretty well,” said Dan Istvan, evidence custodian for the El Paso County Sheriff’s office.

A red car has been sitting in the sheriff’s office’s dirt lot since 1994 -- still no murder suspect but the evidence will stay.

“Most of the evidence, especially if it's a murder, will be kept forever unless it's released by the District Attorney's Office,” said Istvan.

A different red car was used for a kidnapping where police say the victim was put inside the trunk and put up a good fight but didn’t win.

“Carbon monoxide got to her. And killed her,” said Istvan.

A new trend police say they are seeing more and more of are arson cars. The suspect will light the car on fire to try and burn any evidence. Police tell FOX21News this does make it more difficult, but ultimately investigators say they will get to the bottom of it.

In order to preserve the integrity of evidence of a crime scene, human contact should be avoided. Just a few cells from skin can compromise the results. It’s very important to keep careful track of the chain of custody of each sample, according to Istvan. The chain of custody is a list of date and times and locations of people who have handled the crime scene evidence.

“Deputies put evidence into the deputy’s lockers. Every morning we empty the lockers out and check them and make sure they are packaged right and put on a shelf and marked and that's where it will stay,” said Istvan.

The oldest box is from a homicide from 1972. Inside the boxes evidence ranges from papers to a rubber band, but bloody clothing is handled differently. A bloody shirt will go into a drying room then stored in a freezer so it won’t smell.

Some may ask, why keep so many items for so long?

If just one piece of evidence takes a criminal off the streets, police say it’s worth it.

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