Bloodstains and other evidence from the scene of a triple homicide in Central Islip were sent not to the Suffolk County Crime Lab for forensic testing but to the police property bureau, a forensic scientist testified Tuesday.
During cross-examination by defense attorney William Keahon, forensic scientist Thomas Zaveski testified that bloodstains on walls, doors and the floor were sent to the property bureau in Yaphank and not to the crime lab in Hauppauge, where they could have been tested for DNA to identify their sources.
Zaveski has been testifying since Thursday in the trial of Hasan Vaughan and Thomas Singletary, both 36 and of Central Islip. They are charged with first-degree murder and arson in the deaths of Vaughan's girlfriend, Katrice Daniels, 31; her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28; and Mykier Daniels' friend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19, on Aug. 11, 2009.
The victims were tortured, stabbed, shot and strangled before the house was burned down.
After Zaveski said bloodstains found near each of the three bodies were sent to the property bureau, Keahon, who represents Vaughan, asked, "The police property bureau doesn't test stains, do they?"
"They store evidence," Zaveski replied.
Outside court, Keahon and Singletary's attorney, Daniel Russo, said the practice described by Zaveski was troublesome for a few reasons.
"Many of these items, we're going to find out, weren't even tested," Russo said, including bloodstains on a door and a rug. Others weren't tested for two years after the crime, Keahon said.
That means there is no way to know if someone other than Vaughan and Singletary could have been the source of the untested bloodstains, Russo said.
Also, when scientists from the Suffolk lab testify, they make a point that they and their lab are independent of the Suffolk Police Department and the district attorney's office. The lab is a division of the medical examiner's office, which is part of the county health department.
But Russo said the lab can't be that independent if it stores its evidence in the custody of the police instead of in its own climate-controlled evidence vault.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla, who told jurors in his opening statement that DNA from the crime scene ties the defendants to the murders, said outside court that where the evidence is stored is a "nonissue." "This is nonsense," he said. "Everything is well-documented."
All significant evidence was ultimately recalled by the lab and tested, and there is "no way they can say a third person did this," Biancavilla said.