KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than a year after a devastating fire at a Kansas City Police Department evidence warehouse, we’re starting to learn just how widespread the damage might be.
A KCPD warehouse storing evidence of crimes went up in flames August 23, 2018. Anything stored at the warehouse for any crime that happened before that is potentially affected.
“It’s something I’ve never experienced in my many years of practicing both as a prosecutor and defense attorney,” Dan Ross said.
Ross has been digging for answers about just how many cases now have burnt or water-logged evidence. A new affidavit is finally shedding light on that.
The company hired to help with cleaning up after the fire said more than half of evidence bins were damaged, containing hundreds of thousands of individual evidence items.
“It’s a very time-intensive, people-intensive process to actually confirm what property is available, has been destroyed, so that’s the explanation I’m given and that literally requires we have to take deposition of folks in charge of property unit, of the crime lab, and they bring us the information,” Ross explained.
He’s representing Robert Townsend, charged in a 2017 murder, and said up to 200 items in that case were likely fire or water damaged. Most notably was a molded T-shirt he now can’t have tested for blood spatter, which could’ve offered an alternate theory of who committed the crime.
Ross also believes because of crime lab backlogs, there are probably dozens of cases that had evidence in the warehouse that never got tested before the fire ruined it.
“Victims and their families want closure on this, and closure doesn’t come by the situation we have now. I think full disclosure gets us closer to closure. If we’re going to have a conviction or we’re going to have a not guilty, we want to have it on an even playing field so justice is served,” Ross said.
The prosecutor’s office won’t comment on the attorney’s concerns because it involves ongoing criminal cases. With the extent of damage, it’s quite possible many more cases will be impacted for years to come.