Many Pitt County drug cases to be delayed after crime lab chemist leaves

PITT COUNTY, NC (WNCT) – Pitt County’s illicit drug testing program will stop indefinitely, as the senior chemist is resigning, due in part to a salary dispute.

This will create delays for processing many drug cases in the county.

“Every time anyone makes any type of drug arrest or citation, that’s going to affect those because now they have to be shipped off,” said Pitt County Commissioner Glen Webb. “Now everything is going to be going to the SBI instead of our local lab, which is going to cause an increase in turnaround time.”

Right now, each case involving illicit drugs, including heroin and cocaine, would take a couple of days or weeks. As of Friday, the turnaround time could take months.

This delays court processing.

“People that are in the jail for drug offenses have to stay there longer, and that’s something that the tax payers have to pay for,” said Webb.

Sheriff Neil Elks said Pitt County is one of the only forensic labs in the East that has an illicit drug program.

“We were testing for Greenville, Winterville, I had sheriff’s from the counties call and we do drug testing for them as well,” said Sheriff Elks.

Therefore, the potential backlog of cases won’t just affect Pitt County.

Although this is a setback, both Commissioner Glen Webb and Sheriff Neil Elks hope the forensic lab will expand in the future, with DNA and firearms testing.

“We’re doing what we can to keep the process in the direction that we designed it to be in,” said Sheriff Elks. “My goal is to have a lab that’s the best in the East. But we also hope to be picked one day as the lab of the East.”

Sheriff Elks said they are actively seeking a replacement senior chemist.

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