Wednesday marked 80 days since Christina Boshears died, and although family, friends and investigators have already been waiting nearly three months for a determination of what killed her, they may have to wait longer.
On Dec. 15 Boshears was taken from the Kitsap County Jail to Harrison Medical Center after she was observed having trouble breathing. Friends and family say she was fragile from years of drug addition, a recent overdose and then relapse, and had been withdrawing from heroin in the jail while being held for what amounts to a parole violation.
For those who loved her, the thought of a woman whose worst crimes were always directed at herself dying in this way heaped heartbreak upon heartbreak.
She died in Sheriff’s Office custody, and the Port Orchard Police are investigating Christina’s death, but are waiting on the Coroner Greg Sandstrom to rule on her cause of death. To do that, he needs to be certain his ruling is correct.
“We’re trying to cover every base here,” he said Wednesday.
Blood had been sent via the U.S. Mail to the Washington State Patrol’s Toxicology Lab in Seattle. Most people might be unnerved if blood came in the mail. That’s not the case for the lab.
“The typical sample is blood, and also urine,” said Brianna Peterson, lab manager for the toxicology lab.
Results on Boshears blood came back. Sandstrom had it sent back for retesting, which means it goes to the back of the line. The first test found no significant trace of drugs in her system.
Accuracy is fairly important in his line of work. And accuracy takes time.
“We’ve got to wait in line like everybody else,” he said.
Eighty days seems like a lot, especially considering when the public is exposed to crime science, it’s usually on TV.
The time it takes may take some by surprise, Peterson said.
“If they only know about it from watching TV, yes, it is probably surprising to them,” she said.
After all, those models-turned-detectives need only an hour, including commercials.
“It might be a little while yet, I hate to say it,” Sandstrom said.
Part of the hold up is the volume of work the lab does. Peterson said the department handled 11,000 cases last year. An average wait time for results is about 30 days. Thirteen scientists work in the lab.
“Some cases can be much less, if it’s just alcohol present or no drugs,” she said. “You can have cases that have eight drugs in them, and we have to do lots of different tests to confirm.”
And although they don’t visit crime scenes, often enough they are called to courtrooms across the state to testify.
Kitsap isn’t helping the lab lighten its load. The Coroner’s Office is also waiting for toxicology results from the autopsy of Pamela L. McNeil, who body was found in a ditch on Clear Creek Road Feb. 27. Investigators said they do not suspect foul play.
The rest of the state isn’t helping either. Whenever there is a death that requires a closer look to determine cause, and most of the time when an autopsy is performed, and often enough in an impaired driving case, the lab will receive a package in the mail. The package will contain blood, and sometimes urine.