(04/21/2006)
With the WV State Police's crime lab back in the news, Gilmer County prosecutor Jerry Hough says an investigation of Cpl. Doug Starcher of Calhoun is "still open" and continuing.

Starcher's problems are added to an on-going investigation by the State Police of former Grantsville Police Chief Ron Gordon, Trooper 1st Class Jeff Hunt and Chief Deputy Ron Bandy. The Hunt and Bandy investigation are unrelated to Gordon's.

The West Virginia Supreme Court is taking a fresh look at allegations that the State Police's crime lab has continued to falsify evidence in the wake of the Fred Zain scandal.

The lab was involved in a Calhoun court case in 2001, after Cpl. Starcher testified under oath that an illegal drug was discovered at the Kelley Mace residence at Chloe.

The drug was never sustained as being an illegal substance, but Starcher used the "evidence" to indict and prosecute Mace in Calhoun Circuit Court.

After about a year in court, following news accounts about the un-sustained evidence, the case was dropped.

A special investigation was requested by former prosecutor Tony Morgan into Starcher's testimony.

Now, the Supreme Court is taking a broad look at a number of charges about problems with the State Police crime lab. The hearing will be held on May 10.

"Problems identified in the [lab's] serology division may be more widespread and may include analysts in other divisions who may still be committing much of the same misconduct that was committed by Trooper [Fred] Zain and his assistants," according to Kanawha County public defender George Castelle.

The State of West Virginia (taxpayers) has paid-out millions of dollars over the errors, and other problems related to police misconduct around the state, with the agency refusing to consider a Civilian Review Board.

The Supreme Court is also reviewing the murder case against Ronnie Rush, convicted of murdering two Calhoun citizens.

The review is related to how the Grantsville detachment investigated the case, allegedly violating Rush's constitutional rights, misrepresenting evidence in the case, and officers behaving in an unprofessional manner.

In the Mace drug case, a search warrant was issued for her property for what local State Police said was a "million dollar" drug operation, with 270 "stolen" guns on her property.

No such evidence was discovered.

Trooper Doug Starcher testified under oath in Calhoun Circuit Court that officers found meth at the residence, but the State Police lab did not certify the substance as illegal.

Mace said it was garden sulfur.

The State Police's internal investigation of Starcher did not sustain any wrongdoing by the officer, although the results of the report were not made public.

When the Starcher case came to the front, Calhoun Prosecutor Morgan said "I expect Trooper Doug Starcher to be prosecuted, as any other citizen who lies before a court of justice."

Hough said at the time he was trying to include multiple sources, including using the results of the State Police's internal investigation.

He called the investigation a "fascinating situation."

"We will talk to any source that can help us get at the truth," Hough said. "I'm sure there are people out there that know more about this than we've heard. We need to find them and talk to them."

"Nothing on the search warrant proved to be true related to my situation. There is not a shred of evidence" said Mace.

Much of Starcher's case against Mace was from an informant who was incarcerated.

Mace said "Trooper Starcher lied and then continued to commit perjury. Most of us would be held accountable for that."

Starcher was involved in a case where he knocked out the car window of an innocent Grantsville man with his Mag-Lite, and then continued to pile charges against him.

Witnesses who gave testimony regarding the incident said he was in an angry rage.

The officer arrested Hur Herald editor Bob Weaver in February for taking plain-view photographs of an accident scene, claiming Weaver assaulted and obstructed him.

It was Starcher's only arrest in the county during the month of February.

Starcher claims Weaver was taking photographs of an nude victim, witnesses at the scene refuting his allegations.

Starcher had earlier threatened to arrest Weaver at two other plain-view scenes, a fire and an accident.


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