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The Mississippi Forensics Laboratory (Photo: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety)

Members of Harry Davidson’s family were beginning to think that an investigation into the 2016 traffic accident that claimed his life had been scrubbed by the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

A spokesman for the Highway Patrol says possible action in the case has been delayed by the ongoing backlog at the Mississippi Crime Laboratory.

An auto mechanics instructor at Greenwood High School’s Career and Technical Center, Davidson, 58, was riding his motorcycle at dusk on Aug. 25, 2016, on U.S. 82 near the Leflore-Carroll County line, when a van hit him from behind, throwing Davidson from the motorcycle and killing him.

The driver of the van, Darrell Allen, then of Dunedin, Florida, was taken to Greenwood Leflore Hospital and released with minor injuries, although his vehicle flipped after hitting Davidson and exiting the road, according to reports.

No citation was issued at the time of the crash. Highway Patrol spokesman Ronnie Shive said, however, that the Highway Patrol turned in an investigatory packet to the Carroll County District Attorney’s Office in September, anticipating presentation of the case to a grand jury for consideration of indictment.

The case was not heard by an October grand jury, due to a delay in receiving the autopsy report on Davidson from the State Crime Lab.

“It is not uncommon for them to have such a delay,” Shive said. “And we can’t charge anyone until we get an indictment.”

Shive said the Highway Patrol is attentive to these delays as penalties are imposed on it if an investigation is not completed within a certain time frame.

But in this case and many others across Mississippi, both the Highway Patrol and prosecutors point to the State Crime Lab, where backlogs have dogged the Medical Examiner’s Office, leading frequently to waits of more than a year for autopsy reports.

A recent Mississippi Today report said that three medical examiners in Mississippi each perform 500 to 600 autopsies per year, more than double the number recommended by the National Association of Medical Examiners. Staff at the State Crime Lab is down to 85 from 120, due to state budget cuts.

One of Davidson’s best friends, Lawrence Williams, a former Greenwood police officer, said he has been waiting to hear whether charges would be filed against Allen, who now resides in Jackson.

A witness to the crash, Williams said he and Davidson were headed back to Greenwood at dusk, and he had just pulled in front of Davidson when he saw the van come up in his rearview mirror and watched as it knocked Davidson off the road.

Williams had taken a photo of Davidson on his motorcycle just a minute or so before the crash, showing bright green lights all over the bike, making it visible even in the low light.

A diagram on the accident report shows Davidson’s body lying between the motorcycle and the stopped van on the north shoulder of the four-lane highway’s westbound lanes.

Until official autopsies are returned, cases such as this one remains in limbo, with family members often wondering if the case is closed or still open.

Harry Davidson’s brother, Henry, is a chaplain at a Nashville, Tennessee, prison and works with the Metro Nashville Police Department.

“Law enforcement said they were going to wait for lab work to return from the state lab,” he said. “We’ve been waiting around now for over a year to hear something.”

Henry Davidson said he and his brother were part of a large family of 10 siblings and that their 80-year-old mother, among others in the family, has been bothered by the delays in the case, and by the lack of communication.

Shive said what happens next depends upon the district attorney’s office receiving the critical documentation from the State Crime Lab.

“I can assure you we have done everything we could do with the case, and it’s been turned over to the DA’s office,” Shive said.

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