Florence Co. Coroner uses new agency to get test results faster

Florence Coroner Not Using SLED

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - Florence County's Coroner is now using a private lab to help him work faster. Test results in some crime cases are being sent off to a private lab, and results are guaranteed to return within ten days.

"You know the test results we get back, through the comprehensive toxicology, are very important to our investigations," said Florence County Coroner Keith von Lutcken.

Coroner von Lutcken said time is of the essence, when trying to determine how and when someone died. For this reason, von Lutcken has decided to send some toxicology tests to a private lab.The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is normally the state agency that performs all lab work, but due to a large workload, it often times can take months to get results back from the agency.

"Instead of a two, three, or four month turnaround, a private lab guarantees a ten day turnaround time," said Keith von Lutcken.

Just weeks ago, von Lutcken says he started using the private lab to handle some tests.

"In any homicide investigation, especially, time is of the essence. It is very important that we get the test results back quickly," said von Lutcken.

The coroner added in the months it sometimes takes SLED to complete test work, murder suspects could be tampering with evidence and hindering the justice process, in other ways.

"We still use SLED, and we will continue using SLED until we get to the point financially that we can start using the private lab," said von Lutcken.

Von Lutcken says it cost the county around $185 per case to get test results from the private firm. Von Lutcken says that price tag isn't much when a family is waiting for results.

"Families in a lot of situations can't start receiving death benefits from life insurance, military until a manner and cause of death has been ruled on," said von Lutcken.

Lutcken says when funding is available he would like to stop sending tests to SLED altogether and just use the private lab.

"It's very important for the families of Florence County to get some closure at a quicker rate than having to drag it out and waiting," said von Lutcken.

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