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Forensic scientist: crime evidence misidentified at lab

The Suffolk County Crime Lab misidentified evidence it collected at the scene of a 2009 triple murder in Central Islip, a forensic scientist testified Monday in the murder trial of two men in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.

James E. Calkins, a forensic scientist at the county-run lab, testified that a bullet fragment found inside the Central Islip house where three people were tortured, killed and burned had two different lab numbers, 27 and 30. These numbers are used to track each piece of evidence collected at a crime scene.

The item labeled 30, however, had already been identified last week by another crime-lab employee as a beer bottle with DNA material on it.

Calkins did not say who made the mistake or how the error was made.

"The collection of evidence in this case is a joke when two men are facing murder charges," Daniel Russo, defense attorney for one of the two defendants, Thomas Singletary, said in an interview outside the courtroom. "We can't trust what they said because they were sloppy."

Calkins testified for the fourth day at the trial of Singletary and Hasan Vaughan, both 36 and of Central Islip. The men are accused of torturing, stabbing, strangling and shooting Vaughan's girlfriend, Katrice Daniels, 31; her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28; and Mykier Daniels' friend, Louis Calicto Jr., 19, on Aug. 11, 2009. They are accused of then burning down the house.

The bullet fragment was correctly labeled, said Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla. The error occurred, he said, when a photo was taken to document the evidence.

"They placed the wrong tag next to the bullet fragment," Biancavilla said in an interview outside the courtroom.

Russo and William Keahon, an attorney representing Vaughan, had been aggressively questioning how lab employees handled evidence, pointing out Monday that some evidence, including what appeared to be blood, was not collected.

Matthew Dinizio, another Suffolk lab employee, testified Monday that he collected some stains, but not all, in the living room area of the home on Hickory Street. Under questioning by Keahon, Dinizio said he did not collect two stains he believed to be blood.

"The item, to my knowledge, was not collected," Dinizio said, referring to one of the stains he believed was blood.

Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson ordered Dinizio to return to the witness stand Tuesday to face further cross examination by Keahon, and then Russo.

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