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A Look Inside SLED’S New Forensic Lab

$62,800,000 lab modernizes SLED’s forensic capabilities.

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Members of the media recently had the opportunity to take a peek inside the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division’s (SLED) new $62.8 million forensic services laboratory. The facility is the new home of multiple expert witnesses who were thrust into the national spotlight during convicted killer Alex Murdaugh‘s double homicide trial earlier this year, as well as roughly 140 other forensic staff (with room for more).

Located on a 6.55-acre site just north of Columbia, S.C., construction on the 117,672-square foot facility began in March 2020 and concluded in April of last year.

After remarks and a ribbon cutting by SLED and legislative brass, media and visiting dignitaries were given a tour of the new facility – during which we got to see some of the agency’s forensic experts at work.

Take a look …

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S.C. SLED Chief Mark Keel repeatedly thanked members of the General Assembly for their support of the new facility, and recounted stories of forensic techs working out of closets in the agency’s old labs before funds were appropriated to construct the new building. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

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SLED footwear and tire examination expert Melinda Worley, who testified at Alex Murdaugh’s trial, was seen taking photos of the ribbon cutting ceremony. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

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Following the ceremony a delegation of governmental leaders, including lieutenant governor Pamela Evette and speaker of the S.C. house Murrell Smith toured the facility. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

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Immediately upon entering the first floor, guests are greeted with a mannequin murder in SLED’s mock crime scene. An agency expert told members of the media that SLED typically doesn’t rely on this form of crime scene reproduction. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)
The new facility is home to the SLED drug lab, where rows of expensive instruments allow forensic scientists to reliably determine whether a sample is a drug, as well as to test biological samples collected to discern what drugs are in the subject’s system. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)
The halls are full of observation windows, which allow onlookers to watch lab techs work. Here, a scientist pipettes samples in preparation for further processing. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

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Those who followed the Murdaugh trial will recall the controversy related to allegedly improper processing of the shirt Alex Murdaugh wore on the night of the double homicide – which ultimately led to prosecutors keeping this shirt out of evidence. Members of the media got to see how such processing is properly conducted in the new facility. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

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SLED’s DNA labs are the most delicate areas of the new complex. All individuals whose DNA might adulterate the samples are required to record their identities – and lab techs are trained to refrain from breathing near samples to avoid potential contamination. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

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The bubbling devices seen in this lab are “wet bath simulators.” These instruments are precisely calibrated to replicate boozy breath – which in turn lets agency personnel ensure that breath test devices – a.k.a. breathalyzers – are accurate before they are used by law enforcement agencies throughout the state. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

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The SLED firing room, which allows for the safe firing of rifle-caliber rounds inside the facility, was one of the first parts of the building constructed. Concrete walls and bullet-proof glass ensure the safety of personnel as tests are conducted. I briefly spoke with SLED toolmark analyst Mark Greer – who testified twice during Murdaugh’s trial – about his appreciation for the new facility. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

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SLED has a collection of thousands of firearms for comparison to the weapons used in crimes. A technician demonstrated the agency’s water tank, which allows for the recovery of whole rounds fired from small caliber weapons, which are used to analyze weapons and bullets believed to have been used in the commission of crimes. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)
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SLED personnel repeatedly emphasized throughout the tour how much they appreciated the new facility’s separation of lab and office space – as well as the creation of a new separate dining space. Gone are they days when lab techs worked in humid, dank, loud spaces – where meals and desk work often happened within feet of samples being processed.

The new facility allows for current employees to work more efficiently and comfortably – and has room for the agency to add new personnel in the future. Agency leaders expressed optimism this would allow SLED to attract and retain the talent needed to continue to solving and prosecuting crime throughout the Palmetto State.

Given that violent crime is on the rise in the Palmetto State, it’s good to know SLED is equipped with the technology and resources it needs to do its job.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Travis Bell)

Dylan Nolan is the director of special projects at FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore school of business in 2021 with an accounting degree. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.

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2 comments

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Lori Seigel Top fan May 2, 2023 at 6:01 pm

Congratulations, South Carolina! Money well spent! Best wishes from West-Central Minnesota!

Reply
Great News May 3, 2023 at 1:08 pm

Out standing. Now SLED has an even greater opportunity than ever to manufacture evidence when needed, such as when going after licensed hemp farmers.

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