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The Suburbanite
  • Crime lab worker fired again

  • Criminalist Michael Short at the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab was fired for the second time in less than a year amid new accusations.

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  • A criminalist at the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab was fired for the second time in less than a year amid new accusations that he falsified documents and never performed gunshot residue tests on evidence in a 2011 murder trial as he had told a jury.
    City Safety Director Thomas Ream fired Criminalist Michael Short last week for noting on reports that he entered ballistics information from bullets and/or spent cartridges into a national database. The information is supposed to be entered into the database for future review or searches.
    Short was fired last May for improper job performance and insubordination. At the time, he was accused of failing to notice a bullet hole in a piece of clothing during the examination process. Another violation stemmed from a gunshot-related analysis in which Short used the term “using a firearm,” which investigators said indicated that he had test fired a gun. Instead, Short said he relied on past experience with firearms and ammunition.
    Short was reinstated by the Canton Civil Service Commission in October. The commission said Short had not falsified a report, but failed to follow the administrative review process established by the crime lab. The commission also found that termination was not the appropriate remedy because Short had not been disciplined before.
    REACTION
    The initial investigation lead to a more comprehensive internal review of Short’s work from January 2007 through June 2012. The lab’s quality control manager submitted the report to Canton police Internal Affairs last August.
    Short appealed his latest firing this week to the Civil Service Commission.
    Robert Tscholl, the attorney representing Short, said the city is “simply wrong.”
    “The claims against Michael Short have absolutely no merit, no more than the first claims against him,” he said. “The crime lab is in utter disarray. The police department that is managing it has no idea what they’re doing.”
    During the previous disciplinary hearing, retired Common Pleas Court Judge Lee Sinclair and assistant prosecutors Dennis Barr and Chryssa Hartnett testified that Short’s work was “stellar and exemplary,” Tscholl said.
    “They relied on Michael for many, many years and they could not say enough good things about him,” Tscholl said. “I don’t why they’re (city) doing what they’re doing, other than to say they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s been a fiasco.”
    NEW ACCUSATIONS
    Among the new accusations the city made against Short is that he never tested two pieces of clothing for gunshot residue in the murder trial Ryan L. Hamrick of West Virginia, even though he testified to a jury that he had. Hamrick was convicted in 2011 of fatally shooting Demeris Tillman, 30, of East Cleveland, on Nov. 15, 2009, while the men were traveling from Ohio to West Virginia. Canton Township workers discovered Tillman’s body in a creek near the 1800 block of Moore Avenue SE a few days later.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It appears he did not do any chemical examination of the items to identify gunshot residue which would be necessary to conclude that gunshot residue existed or not due to the fact the victim was found laying in a creek for four days and the clothing was extremely soiled,” according to the Internal Affairs report. “...His testimony in Common Pleas Court ...is unsatisfactory at best.”
    Short also is accused of filing 147 false reports. More than 100 of the reports showed he entered ballistics information into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, but no evidence could be found that he actually did. He’s also accused of falsely reporting 36 times that he test fired cartridges from firearms.
    In other cases, Short failed to complete reports, and label and seal evidence. The Internal Affairs report found that Short did not adhere to the crime lab’s analytical procedures or quality assurance standards.
    The case has been reviewed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Canton City Law Department. Initial findings from both agencies indicate the investigation does not warrant criminal charges.
    Police Chief Bruce Lawver, who recommended Short’s firing, declined comment on the case because it’s a pending personnel matter.
    Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or matthew.rink@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @mrinkREP