BILLINGS – After learning a former Billings Police Department employee tampered with dozens of criminal drug cases, Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said his office is moving forward.
Twito met with the head public defender to work out the details of the evidence theft and how it impacts defendants.
The drugs were taken from 138 cases, according to Billings Police Chief Rich St. John.
While that affects 134 suspects or defendants, Twito said that doesn’t mean they will all get a clean slate.
Many of the affected cases involve multiple charges.
For instance, a defendant charged with drug possession and assault can still be held in custody and tried for the assault charge.
That being said, this situation cannot be minimized, Twito said.
He said the news that Rawlyn Strizich. 38. stole hundreds of pills was hard to hear.
“It sort of adds to my attorneys’ work load because they’ve got to double check this. Because the system generally works,” said Twito.
Strizich was an evidence technician when she admitted last month to stealing hundreds of opioids from evidence since July 2017.
According to marriage records in Yellowstone County, Strizich was married to former Billings Police Sgt. Edwin Young, who was convicted of a felony drug charge for possessing oxycodone. That’s the same drug Strizich admitted stealing from evidence.
The couple divorced in 2008, according to marriage records.
Already around 40 cases are being dropped because of the evidence thefts. That means dozens of hours of work by prosecutors will be thrown away.
But Twito said his office knows how to deal with setbacks and unforseen changes, such as those from the Legislature, and will power forward.
“That is a disappointment, but the criminal justice has to continue on and we have to do the right thing,” he said. “If we can’t prove the case because we can’t establish the chain of custody because that evidence is gone, we need to, in a lot of cases, dismiss the case.”
Strizich is not in custody and has yet to be charged.
But Twito said he’s been speaking with St. John about the case and anticipates charges.
Reporting by Aja Goare for MTN News