Family Paying M.E.'s Office to Keep Samples in Daughter's Murder Case
By Ed Murray, NEWS 9
MAYSVILLE, Oklahoma -- A Garvin County family faced a heart wrenching deadline Wednesday. They're daughter was killed in a house fire outside Maysville in 2004. Under law, the State Medical Examiner's Office no longer has to keep samples in the case unless the family pays to keep them.
Initially, Shelia Deviney's death was ruled a homicide. Now, it's an unsolved murder.
The Deviney family has been conducting its own investigation since the day she was killed. They have spent more than $65,000 in their search for the killer. And now, a lack of space at the M.E.'s office meant they had to pull out the checkbook once again.
Susan Deviney doesn't understand why her family has to pay $100 a year now to keep tissue samples of their daughter in storage at the M.E.'s Office. Sheila's unsolved murder officially remains open, but with no recent movement in the case, the state authorized specimen storage fee is required to prevent the samples from being discarded.
"We fought for six and a half years now and it seems like every time an obstacle comes up, we just figure out a way to hurdle over it and do what we need to do," said Susan Deviney.
The problem is the M.E.'s Office currently has 11,000 samples in storage. Wood planks are being used in the refrigerator and the floor to make maximum use of the small space. But it's hard to stay ahead when the office gets up to 30,000 new samples per year.
"In a homicide, we are mandated by law to hang onto those samples for five years, which we do. In other cases, it's 30 days," said M.E.'s Office spokesperson Cherokee Ballard. "We have worked with this family in this case and we work with many families. It just becomes at some point, you've got to make a decision after the time, five years passed. We've got to make a decision on how we're going to handle it."
It also takes up to 30 man hours per month to make sure all samples are handled properly.
"If a law enforcement agency said ‘Please hang on to those indefinitely' we're going to abide by that because we want to help in their investigation. We haven't received that request," Ballard said.
In Maysville, assured that the evidence samples are secure, the Devineys, with the help of the group 11th Commandment, are putting up posters throughout Garvin County offering a $50,000 reward for information that solves the case.
"We're private citizens just like every other private citizen. We've been driven to these ends because of lack of action by commissioned police officers. We have no other recourse," said Shannon Kile with TheEleventhCommandment.org.
"We've got a lot of new information. We just got to figure out where to go with it," Susan Deviney said. "I'm not going to give up, not ever. No matter how long it takes."
The Devineys said they are very thankful for all the leads and the support including several offers to reimburse them the storage fee.
Ballard said the M.E.'s Office is doing all it can to make this time as easy as possible on the family while operating under its current limitations of space.