HOUSTON (AP) — Amid an investigation into the destruction of evidence at one Houston-area constable's office, an ongoing audit determined there might be criminal evidence missing at another local constable's office.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office was notified that a county audit found there could be missing evidence with the Harris County Precinct 7 Constable's Office, said spokesman Jeff McShan.
The DA's office sent out notices to its prosecutors and to local defense attorneys informing them of the situation and advising them to make sure they can locate evidence if they have a case with the Precinct 7 Constable's Office.
But Precinct 7 Constable May Walker said Friday there is no missing evidence.
"I assure the public, I assure the district attorney, I assure the prosecutors that all our property is here and accounted for. That's a fact," Walker said Friday.
Steve Hoza, with the Harris County Auditor's Office, said because the audit of the Precinct 7 Constable's Office is still not complete, his office could not comment.
The auditor's office declined to say what evidence might be missing. But Walker said Friday that all 4,000 pieces of evidence in her property room have been accounted for by her agency.
Walker said county auditors have told her they will return on Monday.
Her office has acknowledged the property room was in disarray after the room's longtime manager retired June 29. When auditors came to the constable's office on July 12, certain evidence they asked for could not be located. Walker said she asked the auditors to give her time to organize the property room and three employees worked to get things in order.
Walker said the transition from her old property room manager to his replacements could have gone better as the former manager was the only person familiar with how the room was organized.
The concern over the property room at Walker's agency comes as the Harris County District Attorney's Office investigates the destruction by an ex-deputy constable with the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office of thousands of pieces of evidence in Houston-area cases.
Authorities allege Christopher Hess destroyed evidence while cleaning out a crammed property room. His attorney has insisted that Hess was only following orders when he cleaned out the room.
Documents released earlier this week by the DA's office show some of the pieces of evidence that were wrongly destroyed included plastic bags containing marijuana, ammunition and smoking pipes.
The DA's office has so far dismissed 101 cases in connection with the Hess investigation, McShan said. All but three of the 101 cases were drug cases.
Prosecutors are now focusing on cases where someone might have been sentenced to jail time and then they will focus on cases where someone was sentenced to probation.
"It's a lot of work," McShan said.
When asked if the public should be concerned that two constable's offices are being scrutinized over their evidence storage, McShan declined to comment.
Hoza said his office couldn't comment on whether the problems at Precinct 4 and Precinct 7 have prompted audits of other constable's offices.
In Texas, constables and their deputies are licensed peace officers who provide a variety of law enforcement services, including issuing traffic citations, serving warrants and patrolling areas.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70