Sometimes crime pays in a good way. In this case, the perpetrator didn’t make off with the dough, the Lincoln County Schools District did. It took the dedication of a long-term employee and a good ream of paper for a $41,085.64 check to be delivered to the school system.
Funds that are seized as part of a criminal case are routinely kept in an account until the case is settled. If the perpetrator is found innocent, the money is returned, if not, by statute it can be donated to the local school system.
After spending 30 years working for Lincoln County, Leroy Buff retired after serving for 17 years as the director of the county’s communication’s center. He really wasn’t ready to be retired because he agreed to come back to serve as the interim director of the communications center and then as a part time evidence technician first under former Sheriff David Carpenter and now under Sheriff Bill Beam.
When Beam came on board, he asked Buff to continue to assist him with the evidence department. Cataloging of evidence at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office has been done since 2008. Beam, then working under Lincoln County Sheriff Tim Daugherty coordinated the transfer of evidence to a computerized system which continued while David Carpenter was sheriff. When Beam became sheriff, he expanded the space evidence is contained in. In addition, Sally Dellinger also works in the evidence department at the sheriff’s office.
“While working as chief deputy, I knew that we had the module for evidence in our records management system,” he said. “After I became sheriff, the decision was made to start computerizing it. It was done with pencil and paper before.”
Evidence was formerly stored in a small room, but Beam relocated it to a larger location within the sheriff’s office.
“We started out with one room and we now have four rooms and another area where we sit and work,” Buff said. “We’ve got a storage building and are in the process of getting another. When Bill moved it back there and started using the computer system, it grew. I grew into it with him.”
Buff now works part-time alongside Connie Queen cataloging evidence that’s taken in as part of criminal investigations – drugs, weapons, money, clothing, rape kits, DNA and many other items. Buff, who has a home at the beach, grew up in Lincoln County. He works for two weeks at the sheriff’s office and then spends two weeks off at his home at the beach.
“I love Lincoln County and I love these people here,” he said. “It’s a labor of love. Connie’s here as the full-time person and her duties are to take the evidence in, collect it, store it and check it out. My part of the job is to inventory and audit what we had and then purge evidence to make room.”
Buff first started clearing out physical evidence which required him to get court orders. Some of the cases that he was working with were as much as 10-12 years old. The necessary court orders had not been received authorizing that the evidence be destroyed. Buff had to go back through the evidence and computer system to find out if the cases had been finished or not and what the outcome was.
“It was so much paperwork and a long and tedious process,” he said. “You’ve got to be especially careful with guns, drugs and money. I had to go back into the computer, pull them up, run all the paperwork, run the people who were involved in the cases to see if they were convicted. The DA’s office is so busy, I filled out the forms and brought them to them to get the judge to sign them. I knew if I didn’t do it, we’d never get this taken care of.”
Once the physical evidence was cleared, Buff focused on the money. It’s required that if the perpetrator is not convicted, the money goes back to the individual. If they are convicted, by statute, the money has to go to the school system.
"Lincoln County Schools has an amazing partnership with the sheriff's department,” Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow. “We are grateful to Sheriff Beam and his deputies for securing this funding as a result of closed cases."