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Sheriff’s office accused of mishandling gun’s retrieval

A Pahrump man says his gun was stolen from the Nye County Sheriff’s Office evidence room.

Richard Marsh contacted the Las Vegas Review-Journal after attempts to recover the firearm, and later to have it replaced, hit roadblocks.

Marsh’s Sig Arms P226 9mm pistol was first stolen in 2007. It was taken from his home while he was on a trip with his ex-wife, and the theft was reported to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

He contacted the department earlier this year, just to see if the gun was ever recovered.

And it was. Sort of.

In late February, Sgt. Eric Murphy of the sheriff’s office emailed Marsh an update on his case: The handgun was recovered in 2012, when Las Vegas police caught someone trying to sell the stolen firearm at a gun show.

The department was notified and retrieved the weapon from Metro’s evidence vault.

But the gun never found its way home. Instead it was sold.

In the email to Marsh, Murphy said officers contacted the “individual” who sold the gun on Feb. 15 — he isn’t named in any of the emails, and Murphy refused to identify him Wednesday, citing an ongoing investigation.

Murphy wrote:

“Immediately after your firearm was delivered to our previous Evidence Technician, by a previous Evidence Technician Volunteer it was released to same individual … the individual stated he ended up selling your Sig Arms P226 a few years ago. The individual explained how he retrieved the firearm from Nye County Sheriff’s Office Volunteer Evidence Technician. The Volunteer Evidence Technician delivered the firearm to the individual at his business. At that time he produced a copy of Las Vegas Metro’s report and his Identification and the Volunteer Evidence Technician released your firearm to the individual. The individual also informed us that he bought your firearm from a second individual who is now deceased. The individual said several years later he sold your firearm. He said he did not remember the name of the person that purchased your firearm from him.”

Marsh said it seems to him to be a case of cops covering for other cops.

“I’m sure there’s a lot more going on in that department,” he said March 29.

Marsh said he was told that the Nye evidence room has stuff dating from the 1960s and that it’s impossible to tell what’s there and what’s missing.

“That’s very serious. What else was stolen?” he said. “Stolen guns are used in crimes all the time.”

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said she is taking the case seriously, even though it’s an old case and the incident occurred under a different administration.

“I do (feel some responsibility) because it was evidently a county screw-up,” she said.

She declined to answer several questions from the Review-Journal, citing an active investigation, but she clarified what happened as best she could.

A volunteer evidence technician retrieved the gun from Las Vegas police and waited eight days to check it into evidence. Then he or she released the gun back to the man from whom Metro confiscated it, Wehrly said.

“This has been very difficult for us to follow it,” she said. “We haven’t dropped it … before it’s over, everyone who touched that gun, we’re going to talk to.”

But Marsh has had enough. After all this time, he’s demanded that the department replace the gun.

“They’re responsible now,” he said. “It was in their possession.”

Wehrly said she has reached out the Nye County district attorney’s office to see if the department was allowed to buy Marsh a new gun. When asked if there would be criminal charges, Wehrly said she wasn’t sure the investigation was headed in that direction.

“As long as it’s an open investigation, I can’t say much more,” she said.

This isn’t the first time that Nye County deputies have landed in hot water for their handling of evidence or contraband.

Last month, former Sgt. Michael Horn pleaded guilty to two felony charges in connection with the theft of prescription pain pills in 2013. According to Pahrump Valley Times reports, Horn was said to have taken more than $24,000 worth of pain pills that were left with the department as part of a medication disposal program.

A civil lawsuit against the county and the department, also filed early this month, alleges that officers passed around a sex tape held in evidence for a sex abuse case and held “pornographic matinees” at the station in 2013.

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com. Find him on Twitter: @WesJuhl

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