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New state crime lab is a step toward swifter justice in the mountains

Faster turnaround times for all crime testing is the goal for the Western Regional Crime Lab that Monday hosted more than 200 regional law enforcement dignitaries from district attorneys to police chiefs to highway patrol deputies. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Faster turnaround times for all crime testing is the goal for the Western Regional Crime Lab that Monday hosted more than 200 regional law enforcement dignitaries from district attorneys to police chiefs to highway patrol deputies.

All have a vested interest in the lab succeeding in its mission to aid in expediting justice, whether it be processing DNA from a rape kit or lifting prints from a car involved in a murder investigation. Times are expected to drastically improve from regional crime cases since DNA testing will no longer have to be done at the Raleigh lab.

“It will be a huge resource for law enforcement,” Waynesville police chief Bill Hollingsed said. “But more than that, it will be a huge resource for the victims of crime in our community, and we're excited about that."

The crowd came for an official ribbon cutting. The center has officially been open for nine weeks but is still not fully operational because of machines that still need to get special testing, including passing requirements from the FBI.

The lab will have 41 staff members, 30 of which will be scientists. Toxicologists are already in place and working on DWI cases. One DNA scientist is already working at the lab, but the remaining eight are expected to arrive by the end of the year. All are already trained and working on Western North Carolina cases but at the Raleigh lab.

John Byrd, director over all state crime labs, said it will be the first quarter of 2018 before all staff are in place in Edneyville.

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