Nine charges have been filed against a former forensic scientist accused of stealing drugs from the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula.
Derek Thrush faces three felony counts of drug possession as well as three misdemeanors for theft and another three for official misconduct.
On Thursday, the Montana Department of Justice sent a letter to county attorneys across the state, informing them that the Montana State Crime Lab concluded an internal investigation last week and found that an employee had taken drug evidence that had been submitted to the lab.
In charging documents filed by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office on Friday, prosecutors said Thrush’s brother-in-law told Missoula police earlier this month that he was concerned Thrush was using methamphetamine that he was taking from the lab.
The brother-in-law told a detective that Thrush confessed to having stolen meth from the lab, and that Thrush’s wife found meth in their home in December.
A Missoula detective and an investigator from the Montana Department of Justice spoke to Thrush on Feb. 14, when he allegedly admitted he had been using meth that he took from the crime lab.
Thrush allegedly said he would take small amounts of meth leftover from samples that were submitted to the lab for testing. He told investigators that the drug testing process used at the lab occasionally does not use all of the test sample, and that while the remainder is supposed to be destroyed, he would take it for his own use.
He said he would store the remaining meth in a vial that he would take from the lab, and that he would use an oral syringe to inject the meth after mixing it with water.
Two supervisors at the crime lab told investigators that they found a vial of meth in Thrush’s desk drawer while doing an inventory of the facility. His desk was not in the same place that drug testing takes place, and no drug evidence should have been there, they said.
Thrush has yet to make a court appearance on the charges.
In 2015, a different breach of drug evidence occurred at the state crime lab in Missoula, when a former evidence technician stole opioids that were being stored as evidence. That breach led to charges against 69 defendants across the state being dropped.
The Forensic Services Division, which runs the crime lab, said in Thursday’s letter they are working to determine if any cases have been affected by Thrush’s actions.