In an effort to keep the community fully and accurately informed, the Winston-Salem Police Department is clarifying issues surrounding cigarette butts associated with the Silk Plant Forest case.
There has been speculation that certain cigarette butts that were found at or near the Silk Plant Forest store were never examined for possible evidence. In a recent press release, the Winston-Salem Police Department noted that cigarette butts, which were not examined, were being submitted for testing. It has also been reported that during the original investigation, the Police Department was directed by then District Attorney Thomas Keith to submit cigarette butts and any other evidence to labs for examination.
After careful research, the Police Department is providing the following facts and information to the community:
- According to the case file, and consistent with the recollections of involved parties, no cigarette butts were recovered at or near the scene of the offense, specifically the Silk Plant Forest store.
- The cigarette butts that do exist as part of the investigation were seized approximately ten days after the attack. These items were seized from a person of interest at the Public Safety Center. They were seized as a method of obtaining DNA samples from a known source.
- Lab and evidence sheets appropriately show the cigarette butts as not being examined. These are the cigarette butts listed in the previous Police Department press release. Since these items were seized away from the scene and from a known source, they were not sent out for examination and will not be sent out at this time. There is no point in testing them as the source is known and better DNA evidence from the subject is available. The items will be maintained as part of the investigative case file.
- The Police Department has been able to confirm that there were discussions with the District Attorney's Office regarding the examination of various items. In mid-2007, the District Attorney's Office asked for a discussion to be held regarding the possibility of resubmitting items for an updated DNA review. The results of those discussions are unknown at this time. It is apparent, however, that no items were subsequently sent off for examination. Whether this was due to the decisions made in the discussions or for other reasons, is not known. The issues of why the involved items were never sent off for examination are still being researched.
The Police Department believes that by sharing this information, previously misunderstood circumstances can be clarified. The department’s goal is to provide accurate, timely information to the community as best it can without jeopardizing the integrity of the internal review, so that the public will gain confidence in the Police Department and the committee that is reviewing the case. The internal review committee intends to provide as complete information as possible in its report. The Police Department will continue to provide information about the case as is appropriate and reasonable, with the goal of completing its review this summer.