Advertisement
(Photo: Courtesy of the Houston Forensic Science Center)

An audio/video forensic analyst in Houston was fired last week after it was revealed she had shredded her required case notes from a homicide scene, officials said.

The forensic analyst of audio and video evidence had worked on roughly 100 cases over her two years of employment, and those cases will be audited, said the Houston Forensic Science Center.

“HFSC will not tolerate the potential of professional misconduct and takes seriously any mishaps that may impact a criminal investigation,” said Peter Stout, the CEO and president of the HFSC. “For this reason, we have strong quality systems in place and we are satisfied they worked as intended in this incident.”

The analyst had responded to the scene of the homicide, a Jan. 12 killing in which an unidentified Hispanic male was shot in the chest outside a check-cashing establishment on the 8900 block of Beechnut Street, in southwest Houston. The man was rushed to a hospital, but later died. (No arrests have yet been made.)

The analyst, now identified as Megan Timlin, was securing surveillance footage from around the area, according to Stout.

But apparently a standard technical review of the analyst’s case notes determined there were several administrative errors on the case notes from the scene, according to the HFSC. Stout told Forensic Magazine in an interview that they were minor errors, like not properly recording settings on the DVR machine.

The analyst returned to the scene to correct the errors several days later. She was instructed to keep the original case notes for evidentiary purposes.

But the handwritten notes were actually physically shredded by the analyst, which violated the agency’s policy and procedure, said HFSC spokeswoman Ramit Plushnick-Masti.

The form that was supposed to be filled out is a “fill-in-the-blanks” control document that can be completed on a laptop or by hand. The worker had opted to handwrite the form, said Plushnick-Masti.

The internal investigation took several days. The forensic analyst was terminated on Jan. 24, Plushnick-Masti said.

The analyst’s actions will be disclosed to the Texas Forensic Science Commission as suspected professional misconduct - a threshold which is indicated by a "knowing" violation of policies. The HFSC has also notified the city police and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Jody Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department, said investigators “don’t believe evidence was lost,” they add.

The look at 100 cases will proceed, said Stout.

“Should the audit finding indicate we need to further strengthen those systems we will do so to ensure similar mistakes are not made going forward,” he said, in a statement. 

A LinkedIn page that purports to represent Timlin professionally shows employment at HFSC from January 2016 until January 2018. Prior to that is a 12-year stint for the State of Ohio as a forensic audio/video analyst. During her time in Houston, she was publicly commended in the quick analysis of surveillance footage depicting a decapitation murder - and which resulted in an arrest of a suspect within hours.

The HFSC cleared a long-standing digital evidence backlog about a year ago, officials told Forensic Magazine in a 2017 interview.

Advertisement
Advertisement