Dope? It's missing from Marion County sheriff's evidence


Published: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.

OCALA - Sheriff Ed Dean is trying to determine what happened to a large supply of marijuana missing from the Sheriff's Office's evidence room.

Maj. Terry Bovaird said on Friday that a marijuana "bale" estimated between 10 pounds and 22 pounds was "unaccounted for" during an inventory of all the evidence held by the agency.

After an initial search into possible locations proved fruitless, Dean requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement come in to help find the drugs, Bovaird said.

"I can't tell you that we have it or don't have it," Bovaird said.

According to Bovaird, the Sheriff's Office's tracking system indicates that the bale is supposed to be in a "ready box" of items to be delivered to FDLE's office in Jacksonville.

In this case, the Sheriff's Office was set to ship three bales to FDLE. State agents recorded that they received only two of them.

Bovaird said it's possible the marijuana was incorrectly identified in the sheriff's tracking system, not yet processed by FDLE, misplaced since evidence was being moved to another part of the Sheriff's Office's complex, or disposed of during a routine destruction process.

"In a perfect world, we'll find it sitting on a shelf up there," said Bovaird, referring to FDLE's Jacksonville office.

The sheriff hopes FDLE's inspectors can offer a fresh perspective in figuring out the mystery, Bovaird said. But the next step won't likely be known until early next week, when FDLE is expected to inform Dean how it will conduct the investigation, he added.

Dean had ordered the evidence review as part of the transition to his successor, Bovaird said. Voters will elect either Republican Chris Blair or Constitution Party candidate Bernie DeCastro as the new sheriff on Nov. 6. The winner will take office in January.

Deputies not assigned to the evidence section were still in the early stage of the inventorying some 75,000 pieces of evidence, a process that is expected to take about a month, when the marijuana bale could not found, Bovaird said.

Dean immediately halted the inventory and began the hunt for the missing pot.

Bovaird said deputies thought it had been sent to FDLE for processing or had been retained by court officials, as happens once cases are closed. FDLE and court officials both reported that it was not in their custody, although Dean's staff still must verify that for themselves, Bovaird said.

The drugs were from a closed case handled by law enforcement officers from the Florida Department of Transportation, Bovaird said.

While almost all the evidence maintained by the Sheriff's Office is gathered during its own investigations, the agency sometimes keeps evidence collected by other agencies, Bovaird added.

Contact Bill Thompson at 867-4117, or bill.thompson@starbanner.com

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