BILLINGS – An evidence technician for the Billings Police Department has been fired after she admitted stealing close to 1,000 pills collected as evidence in 138 cases, according to Chief Rich St. John on Tuesday.
Raylyn Strizich, 38, admitted to the theft days before a scheduled audit in January and was fired on Feb. 6.
According to St. John, Strizich searched the database for cases involving Oxycodone or similar opioids and would then locate the evidence and remove the pills.
St. John said she would “either reseal the package or simply shred it.”
Though Strizich sometimes stole the pills overtly, her actions did not raise red flags because part of her duties involve handling the pills and bagging them, according to BPD Captain Kevin Iffland.
“This was done despite security cameras and other staff in the building,” said St. John. “Most times, her actions were covert but the investigation shows other instances where there was complete disregard of being discovered.”
Strizich worked as a police clerk from 2013 to 2016 prior to working at the evidence facility.
The 138 cases involve 134 suspects or defendants, who cases will be impacted in different degrees.
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito confirmed Tuesday that about 40 cases would be dismissed as a direct result of the evidence Strizich allegedly tampered with.
“There are other drugs missing and a small amount of cash. However we have not made a connection,” said St. John.
Police do not believe the drugs were sold or traded.
St. John defended the rest of the staff at the evidence facility, saying Strizich’s actions do not reflect the professional conduct exhibited by the staff.
Billings police are reviewing police, procedures, and processes.
St. John said the chain of evidence is critical to prosecution, and his department is working to improve that element.
The evidence lab, which employed just three technicians, currently contains 60,000 pieces of evidence.
St. John said one of the ways to improve the security of evidence is that his department needs to get rid of some of the inventory.
Reporting by Aja Goare for MTN News