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Crawford County gets new space for coroner, sheriff's lab


Center to allow deputies, coroners perform more efficiently


By Dave Hughes
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

VAN BUREN -- Law enforcement agencies throughout Crawford County will benefit from the new sheriff's investigations laboratory and county coroner's office that opened Monday next door to the county jail.

About 75 people turned out for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning at the Crawford County Criminal Investigation Division-Forensics Center, which will provide the coroner's office a secure place to hold and examine bodies and give the sheriff's office more space for its investigations equipment.

The center also will provide a place where families can have a comforting environment to identify and see their loved one through a viewing window without tainting any evidence on the body, Coroner Pam Wells said.

"We wanted the families to feel like this is a place where they can grieve, they can cry, cuss and scream. They can do whatever they want," Wells said. "We wanted them to know their loved one was cared for."

The $600,000 center opened in late September. It holds a cooler large enough to hold nine bodies and an examination room. A room in the building holds several pieces of sheriff's equipment, such as a fingerprint processor and evidence dryer, that could not fit in the sheriff's space in the county jail.

The money to design and build the center was left over from the bond sales used to build the county jail, County Judge Dennis Gilstrap said. He said the bond money, which is being paid off by a one-half percent sales tax, was dedicated to build the jail and other law enforcement purposes.

The jail was completed under budget because the size was reduced to ensure the job cost fell within the construction budget, Gilstrap said.

"So, this still is falling under construction of the jail because of the lack of space they have" for their lab equipment, he said. READ MORE.

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