GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A murdered woman's family says a slow system cost their loved one her life.
DNA from a 2005 rape matched Christopher Wallace, but it took several weeks after initial confirmation for charges to be approved. During that time, a Muskegon-area mother of two was murdered in her home -- allegedly by Wallace.
Kalamazoo police investigating the rape pointed the finger at the slow process of getting the DNA analyzed -- a process that took place at the Michigan State Police Crime Lab in Grand Rapids.
MSP says its goal turnaround time on DNA evidence is 30 days.
That would have been enough to lock up Wallace, 34, before the murder, but it didn't happen in this case -- and the reason why boils down to a tight budget.
Police don't doubt now that Wallace should have been in prison for a 2005 rape, but they couldn't arrest him until it was too late for Jennifer Phillips.
"I believe that if they would have had him in prison where he should have been she would still be here," said Jennifer Phillips's sister Mary Phillips.
Jennifer, 37, was strangled to death in her home on Oct. 21, 2011, police say.
"I don't think she gave up until she couldn't try anymore," said Mary.
The holdup in the arrest, Kalamazoo police say, was in the confirmation process the DNA was going through to be checked for a match with the cold case rape.
A state police report dated Oct. 13 -- nine days before the murder -- matched Wallace's DNA to the rape. But there was still another step before the confirmation could be complete. Another "independent analysis" was required.
It's a critical step, the Michigan State Police Crime Lab director in Grand Rapids said, to maintain the integrity of the system.
"We want to ensure that the public has confidence in that analysis because it is a powerful tool," said Lt. James Pierson, the director of the MSP Crime Lab in Grand Rapids.
Before police could make an arrest, Jennifer Phillips was murdered.
"They gotta do something to keep these guys out of society," Marsha Phillips, Jennifer's mom told 24 Hour News 8.
Marsha placed an electric candle in the window of her home that she said will remain illuminated until justice is served for her daughter.
"I had plans with her that next Saturday for coffee," she said. "I lost all of it."
The turnaround goal of 30 days was not met in the rape case. It was overshot by more than another 30 days.
Pierson said the lag was caused by a lack of money and an understaffed crime lab that has a perpetual backlog.
"You can't spend money that you don't have," said Pierson.
And that may be a key reason why the DNA wasn't confirmed more quickly. It's an issue Jennifer Phillips family wants to see addressed.
"If somebody commits a crime, they need to do whatever they can do to find out right away that their DNA matches," said Mary Phillips.
Pierson said that more money to help the lab meet its 30-day goal is part of the governor's new crime reduction plan. He said MSP hopes it becomes a reality.
Pierson also said what happened in this case is a rare occasion, but that it is, no doubt, one delay too many.
As Wallace awaits trial for both the murder and rape cases, Phillips' family hopes a lesson is learned by what happened to Jennifer Phillips.
"Jenny gave her life so someone else could live," her mom said.
Police are investigating a report of a home invasion, but say there are inconsistencies.
A Kalamazoo County sheriff's deputy will not face criminal sexual conduct charges.
A candlelight vigil was held Wednesday night for an innocent bystander who was shot and killed in October.