A shipping container in a fenced in yard at the Laraway service facility of the Will County Sheriff's Department contained the evidence, which was stolen sometime before last Friday, October 14.
"We weren't certain, frankly, at the time, was it missing or just misplaced or could it be in the courts. It took three or four days to conduct an audit of that. We are now pretty confident we don't have control of the item," said Ken Kaupas, Will County Sheriff's Department.
The heroin, worth approximately $500,000, was wrapped in four one-kilogram packages.
"We are not pinpointing ourselves from the internal aspect. We've looked at if there is an outside source, but certainly it's of great concern to us," said Kaupas.
The sheriff's office has now asked the FBI to take over the investigation and, more generally, to look into how Will County manages evidence.
"Obviously there is policy procedure issues that I believe probably weren't followed in a proper fashion. Upon learning of this we immediately took some internal corrective action," Kaupas said.
The missing heroin deals a potential blow to drug prosecutions in Will County. The area has seen 26 heroin overdoses in the last year, up from only five a decade ago. Chicago legal expert Richard Kling says with the thefts, the challenge for the justice system becomes monumental.
"It was recently confiscated by the police and turned over for testing and wasn't tested yet. There is nothing left to test. No heroin, no case," said Kling.
Will County state's attorney James Glasgow's office disagreed in a statement. "No prosecutions of drug-related cases are being dropped as a result of what may have happened with evidence held by the Will County sheriff. Our research says we would be able to prosecute drug cases even if the heroin was unavailable," said Charles Pelkie, Will County's Attorney's Office.
The Will County sheriff has had trouble with high profile prosecutions in the past. The sheriff misplaced key evidence that would have put the killer of 3-year-old Riley Fox behind bars a lot sooner, and was mistaken in laying charges against an Indiana police officer who was charged in last spring's infamous "honeybee" killings.