It’s a delicate balance—preserving criminal evidence for thousands of cases without being overrun by it all.
The office in Albuquerque is one of 12 State Police locations across the state that house evidence. The upkeep is constant. Once evidence has served its purpose, it has to go.
It can make or break a case, like the drop of blood a man left behind after attacking a 17-year-old Cibola High School student in her home back in 2008.
Or, for the family of Starr Olsen, who was killed when her aunt drove drunk and crashed—it was her blood that led to a conviction.
Late last year, however, after Olsen’s aunt was released from prison, a motion was filed for State Police to destroy the evidence. It said it was no longer needed for evidentiary or judicial purposes.
“We see a lot of different evidence… we have a wide, vast variety of evidence,” said State Police Lt. Mark Soriano.
He said when a case is complete, the investigating officer applies to the court to get rid of it.
“Everything that’s attached to that case, that’s applied through that destruction order, is destroyed,” said Lt. Soriano.
When evidence is first collected, it’s brought to vaults at the different State Police locations. For long term storage, it’s moved to Santa Fe.
In the past, New Mexico has seen cases like that of a 21-year-old Albuquerque woman who was raped and the Albuquerque Police Department got rid of her evidence.
Lt. Soriano said they have staff that works closely with the District Attorney’s Office to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“We do have evidence custodians supervisors that take care of [the vaults], and they assure that the cases are being looked into and followed through,” said Lt. Soriano.
State Police said their facility in Santa Fe, which houses evidence long term, is much larger than their district offices. They say it’s full of cases that date back years, many of them cold cases.
Police still have to hold on to evidence even after a conviction, until deadlines have passed for an appeal.