Police Technician's Handling of Evidence May Lead To Accused Attacker's Freedom
Posted May 10, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT
DURHAM — A domestic violence case that left a woman in a coma for nearly two months is now centered around the police technician who collected evidence at the scene.
Yvonne Walker was beaten up and left for dead almost two years ago. Now, she is worried Bryant Strothers, the man accused of the crime, may go free because Bruce Preiss, a technician with the Durham Police Department, destroyed evidence.
"I was sentenced to death, but God picked me up out of this apartment and said, 'No, I won't let you have her,'" Walker says.
Preiss is accused of putting key evidence in the trunk of his car, leaving it there for several months, and then just throwing it away.
"He knew the severity of the case," says Cheryl Kearney, a relative of Walker. "Why would you go and throw samples away when you saw the pool of blood on the kitchen floor? I don't understand that."
Preiss is on administrative leave with pay while the police department conducts an internal investigation. They are also doing a staff inspection to make sure the same thing does not happen again.
"The chief wants to approach this from a multi-faceted standpoint, a preventive standpoint as well, to get to the bottom line and find out what the facts are," says Maj. George Hare of the Durham Police Department.
Both sides are worried what the missing evidence means to the case.
"Unfortunately, it keeps an innocent man in jail for another four or five months while the state figures out why they messed up," says public defender John Fitzpatrick.
"This man may walk because he (Preiss) threw the samples away," Kearney says.
The police department should complete its investigation in about three weeks.
The Durham County assistant district attorney handling the case would not say how or if this will affect the case. Strothers could go on trial sometime in June.