Local News

Embattled Durham Police Technician May Have Jeopardized Other Cases

Posted August 24, 2000

— A Durham man accused of murdering his daughter may benefit from the controversy surrounding an evidence technician.

Eric Crutchfield is accused of killing his 6-year-old daughter, Briana, and trying to kill his 9-year-old son, Ricardo. Most of the evidence against Crutchfield was collected by Bruce Preiss, the police technician who recently admitted in court that he threw away evidence from a domestic violence case.

"I have absolutely no indication whatsoever that Mr. Preiss has engaged in destruction of evidence in any other case," says Durham County District Attorney Jim Hardin.

Preiss admitted he threw away evidence againstBryant Strothers, a man accused of beating his pregnant girlfriend into a coma. The charges against Strothers were dropped.

Prosecutors now fear Preiss could damage their mostly circumstantial case against Crutchfield.

"What I am very concerned about is the impression that jurors would get from him because we now have a credibility question," Hardin says.

Preiss is on paid leave from theDurham Police Department. His punishment could be handed down next week.

"He's actually on military leave. The case has been completed and reviewed," says Lt. Ed Sarvis. "Chief Chambers is scheduled to meet with him when he returns. We expect him back sometime next week."

Prosecutors reviewed a dozen other cases Preiss worked on, and concluded that he did not tamper with evidence in any of them. They still expect defense attorneys to use the Preiss connection against them in court.

Prosecutors looked into the possibility of filing charges against Preiss, but they decided against it. They say the botched evidence was a mistake, not a criminal act.


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