CBI internal investigation found former scientist manipulated lab results

Colorado DNA Scientist Investigated
AP Photo/Pool, Marty Caivano, File
FILE – Yvonne Woods, a lab agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, points to a DNA chart during Diego Olmos Alcalde’s trial on Monday June 22, 2009 in Boulder, Colo. The former Colorado Bureau of Investigation DNA scientist intentionally cut corners and didn’t follow standard testing protocols, raising questions about hundreds of cases in which she processed evidence, the agency said Friday, March 8, 2024 calling it “an unprecedented breach of trust.”

Updated at 4:03 p.m. on March 8, 2023.

A Colorado Bureau of Investigation internal affairs investigation found more than 650 cases in which a long-time DNA scientist had manipulated DNA test results.

An investigation by a third party found that Yvonne “Missy” Woods omitted material facts from official criminal justice records, tampered with DNA testing results, and violated CBI’s code of conduct and laboratory policies.

“Public trust in our institution is critical to the fulfillment of our mission,” CBI Director Chris Schaefer said in a statement released Friday. “Our actions in rectifying this unprecedented breach of trust will be thorough and transparent.”

The fallout is expected to come at a hefty price. According to state budget documents, it will cost the CBI almost $7.5 million to retest DNA samples tampered with by Woods. It will cost $3 million to retest 3,000 cases at $1,000 each. 

Nearly $4.3 million will cover the review and post-conviction processes such as reimbursements to district attorney offices across the state and other legal fees.

The investigation began in September 2023 when DNA testing conducted by Woods potentially deviated from standard operating procedures. The 29-year veteran was placed on administrative leave the following month and retired in November. 

CBI’s Quality Management team reviewed all of Wood’s work from 2008 to 2023 and found 652 cases were manipulated. A review of Woods’ work from 1994 to 2008 is underway.  

“While the allegations resulting from the internal investigation alleged that Ms. Woods deviated from standard protocol and cut corners in her work, the findings of the internal investigation support Ms. Woods’ earlier statements she never created or reported any false inculpatory DNA matches or exclusions,” Ryan Brackley, the attorney for Woods, said in a statement. “Nor has she testified falsely in any hearing or trial resulting in a false conviction or unjust imprisonment.”

Brackley said Woods will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as the investigation continues.