GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - It often takes months to get back results from crime labs, but it took only 10 days for a Michigan State Police Crime Lab to confirm blood found at a Norton Shores gas station was that of Jessica Heeringa.
Police say Heeringa, 25, was abducted from the Sternberg Road Exxon Mobil where she works on the night of April 26. That night and the next day, authorities found a small amount of blood at the scene. The following Monday, they sent a sample to the Crime Lab. Wednesday, they confirmed the blood was Heeringa's.
Funding shortages and a backlog of work at crime labs often means tests can take weeks or months. But in a case like Heeringa's, the procedure is different.
"They did push it through. This is a very high-profile case. It's a very serious case. We know we're under the gun as far as a timeline is concerned. We need to get Jessica back to her family. We need to now get her medical attention as soon as possible," Norton Shores Police Chief Dan Shaw said.
A small piece of evidence inside an MSP Crime Lab can be a major piece to an investigation and provide the answer police are looking for to solve a crime.
"It can take any where from about four weeks to about six months to have DNA evidence tested," Grand Rapids MSP Crime Lab Biology Unit Supervisor Sarah Thibault said.
In Heeringa's case, it took less than two weeks.
"The two scientists that worked on this case worked very hard to get it done in a very short period of time," Thibault said. "In this case, we felt that there was a need to expedite due to the nature of the crime and the investigation. And we felt that it was very important to put that information in the investigators' hands as soon as possible."
But not every case moves through the lab that quickly. In 2010, when, 32-year-old West Michigan mom Venus Stewart went missing, State Police submitted what the department called "very important" evidence relating to Stewart's disappearance to the crime lab in Grand Rapids. A month later, they still didn't have results. The crime lab director said at the time that processing evidence can take months.
"You have to be sure you're doing it right because many times when we go into court, we tip the scales," Grand rapids MSP Crime Lab Lt. James Pierson said at the time.
Chief Shaw said investigators chose a lab that had the least backlog.
"We also tried to determine how fast the analysis could be done and selected what we believed to be the quickest lab at the time based on backlog and where we were going in priority order. So the State Police Crime Lab was selected. Swabs went to them, and they were able to quickly analyze that for us because it does take some time to come up with DNA," Shaw said.
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