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Fraudulent Police Chemist Flees Justice

A former West Virginia state police chemist, Fred Zain, 43, accused of rigging criminal evidence in two states is missing and being sought by Texas authorities. Texas state district Judge Mickey Pennington issued what is called a "capias warrant" in Texas, meaning any law enforcement agency that finds Zain should arrest him.

Zain, a crime lab serologist, tested evidence for the West Virginia state police crime lab from 1979 to 1989, and was chief of serology his last five years. That state's Supreme Court last year ruled he may have fabricated evidence in as many as 138 cases.

While testifying as an expert witness in dozens and dozens of West Virginia rape and murder cases, Zain reported the results of tests he never performed, co-workers testified. They complained to Zain's superiors as early as 1985, but nothing was done.

In 1989, Zain took his pro-prosecution reputation and a letter of recommendation from the West Virginia Governor and headed to Texas, where he was named head of serology at the Baxter County medical examiner's office in San Antonio. He kept his Texas job until last year, when allegations stemming from his work in West Virginia reached San Antonio officials. A medical examiner there asked a well known forensic expert to review Zain's cases. The expert picked 14 at random, and found something drastically wrong in all 14 of them! Texas authorities say they think he might have tainted more than 1,000 cases.

Zain's wrongdoing came to light in 1992. An investigation was triggered by the case of Huntington, W.Va. resident Glen Dale Woodall, whose 1987 rape convictions were overturned after DNA tests showed he could not have committed the crimes. After serving five years for crimes he did not commit, the state awarded him $1 million for his false incarceration.

Seattle Times, July 28, 1994

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