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Santa Fe police waiting on audit of troubled evidence room

January 5, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe police’s poor handling of its evidence room may have affected several cases. But just how many remains a mystery.

The department is awaiting the results of an evidence room audit conducted by a consultant, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

Santa Fe Deputy Chief Ben Valdez said the department will not attempt to determine if more evidence is missing until that audit.

He does not know when the audit will be released, but he expects it soon.

The audit comes more than six months after the Santa Fe Police Department told the District Attorney’s Office it had lost evidence in a first-degree murder case.

Last year, authorities discovered there was evidence missing in the case of Christopher Garcia, 28, accused of fatally stabbing his girlfriend, 21-year-old Selena Valencia, in 2017.

A court-ordered audit of evidence in the Garcia case, conducted by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office crime scene technician Shari Vialpando, showed the department failed to follow 14 of its own evidence-handling policies and

Without the critical evidence, state attorneys prosecuting Garcia declined to take him to trial on the first-degree murder charge. Instead, they agreed to a deal that allowed Garcia to plead no contest to a charge of voluntary manslaughter, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, and two counts of tampering with evidence. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.