'It's in its very infancy right now': Kane County sets up its own forensic crime lab
Kane County's first forensic crime lab is now open, and the new facility has already taken on several cases.
"We do everything from blood testing to rapid DNA ... to expedite criminal cases in Kane County. ... And it gets turned right around in a day or two," Sheriff Ron Hain said. "It's a partnership to have our own lab with the state's attorney and the coroner. I'm paying for it out of my budget, but the cost will be shared. It's in its very infancy right now."
The nascent crime lab, located in a small office in the sheriff's department, has two full-time technicians. The lab had a soft opening on June 5, Hain said.
Hain said the cost is about $200,000 for the two employees. Head technician Timothy Ruppel donated the equipment from his own lab.
Ruppel had been a principal chemist at Sugar Grove Analytical Laboratory in Sugar Grove Township and had brought the idea forward in 2021 and offered to help set up the county's lab.
Hain said Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser has about $700,000 in opioid settlement funds set aside for the forensic lab.
The sheriff's office will reconcile the expenses with both Mosser's office and the coroner before the fiscal year is done, Hain said.
Hain said the lab already has served Elgin and the state's attorney's office.
One urine test for drug toxicology was sent to the state police lab, as the Kane lab does not have all its equipment yet, Hain said.
Eventually, the lab will have more equipment and larger digs through a build-out in the employee gym -- which will move to a new spot -- as it has enough space for what the lab needs, Hain said.
"We are just in the bid phase right now," Hain said. "There's still a lot of bugs to work out. It's a massive undertaking to stand this whole thing up."
Coroner Rob Russell said his office is doing a trial period with toxicology and the new lab.
"We're sending to our lab and NMS Labs, and we'll compare and contrast and see that everything is working properly," Russell said. "Most drug-related tests -- it's a snail's pace -- but I knew it was going to take a long time to do it right."
NMS Labs is a private toxicology laboratory in Pennsylvania, where results usually take two weeks. Kane County doing its own lab testing would not only save time but cost.
Consider that samples from 330 autopsies last year were sent to the Pennsylvania lab for a basic panel at a minimum cost of $180 apiece, covering the transportation via FedEx and testing, Russell said.