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DNA analyst in Northern Colorado fired over handling of evidence, charges pending

By Austen Erblat

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    Colorado (KCNC) — A Weld County Sheriff’s Office DNA analyst who worked in the office’s Northern Colorado Regional Forensic Lab for just over a decade has been fired for alleged mishandling of evidence and the sheriff’s office is now pursuing criminal charges. It’s the second case of this nature in Colorado in about four months.

Chiara Wuensch was fired Wednesday, the sheriff’s office said in a statement Friday morning, after a month-long investigation by the sheriff’s office. That investigation was initiated after findings from a separate investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation into one of its forensic scientists who’s facing similar accusations.

The sheriff’s office said Wuensch violated the county code of conduct and the sheriff’s office conduct standards in not coordinating with a sheriff’s office internal investigation.

CBS News Colorado left a voicemail for Wuensch seeking comment Friday morning.

“We hire people that we believe have the utmost integrity. No system is better than the people who work in it,” said Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams.

The sheriff’s office said it was limited in the details it could release due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, but Wuensch testified in the trial of Steven Pankey in 2021, according to news reports from that time.

A LinkedIn profile with Wuensch says she worked at the Northern Colorado Regional Forensic Laboratory since November 2013 — around the time it opened — and as a senior forensic scientist at the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory from June 1990 to October 2013.

The Weld County Sheriff’s Office said the “anomalies” found in Wuensch’s casework were “limited.” It wasn’t immediately clear how long those “anomalies” go back and if or how this will impact any criminal cases she worked on is still unknown.

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