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Veteran O'Fallon, Mo., detective charged with stealing drugs from evidence locker

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, STLtoday.com, stltoday.com
BYLINE: Susan Weich

O'Fallon, MO


Luke Smyka, an O'Fallon, Mo., police detective, was charged with stealing drugs from the department's evidence locker.

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • A veteran O’Fallon police detective is accused of stealing drugs from the department’s evidence locker, authorities said Friday.

Luke Smyka, 35, is charged with two counts of stealing a controlled substance and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.

He remains under investigation, and police say they expect more charges to be filed.

Smyka is an 11-year veteran of O’Fallon’s Police Department. He’s been a detective for nearly five years and has received several department commendations.

It’s unclear how Smyka’s actions might impact cases. St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar said his office had identified 28 recent cases in which Smyka had some involvement.

“The investigation may lead to cases that would impact our ability to fairly and ethically prosecute if we find out that evidence was tampered with,” he said. “That’s obviously something we are concerned about.”

Smyka was expected to testify in the June murder trial of Peyton McAnelly, who is accused of killing Joseph Givens after contacting him on Craigslist.

Lohmar said he believed his office still had a strong case against McAnelly.

According to court documents, on March 17, Smyka took hydrocodone that was seized as evidence in a 2014 case and methadone that was evidence in a 2012 case. Smyka apparently checked the evidence out under the guise of reviewing it for a prosecuting attorney.

The evidence specialist noticed that the evidence had been tampered with and called a supervisor. The supervisor determined that Smyka had replaced the prescription drugs with non-prescription medication. Smyka was removed from duty at that time, police said.

In an interview, Smyka admitted to taking the medicine for his personal use. He told officers he was addicted to pain killers. Police Chief Roy Joachimstaler said he didn’t know if Smyka’s pain was the result of an injury he suffered on the job.

Joachimstaler described the case as “just beginning.” He said Smyka’s involvement with drug evidence would undergo a comprehensive review and there would be a complete audit of the drug vault.

“I’m very disappointed, in fact to the point that I’m disgusted over this,” he said. “The public has more expectations of us and rightly so. I think it’s important that the public knows that we will follow this to the conclusion.”

The case was investigated internally by O’Fallon instead of an outside agency.

Joachimstaler defended the action, saying that the O’Fallon Police Department was a “full-service police department, not a small-town organization.”

“We’re fully capable of investigating and taking appropriate action witnessed by what’s going on today,” he said.

Court documents show that police consider Smyka to be a danger to the community because he owns numerous firearms and ammunition and “has intimate knowledge of criminal investigations and would be familiar with methods to avoid arrest.”

Bail was set at $5,000, which Smyka posted.

Lohmar said he would have liked a higher bail.

“I think the problem is more for the defendant himself than anybody else,” he said. “Obviously it’s a traumatic situation if you are a law enforcement professional yesterday and today you are a criminal defendant.”

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