Commissioners vote to expedite DNA testing in Brown County homicide
BROWNWOOD, Texas - Brown County commissioners on Monday approved paying the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office to expedite DNA testing in the Chantay Blankenship homicide case.
Chief Deputy Vance Hill and Criminal Investigator Sgt. Scott Bird told county commissioners that the state crime lab said they'd have to wait more than six months to get DNA results.
Chantay Blankinship was found dead on May 16, five miles from her Lake Brownwood home. She was reported missing on May 14.
Many residents in the area of Blankinship's northern Lake Brownwood home said they want answers.
"We need to know what is going on," said Judy Kinney with the Harbor Point Association.
The sheriff's office hopes Monday's decision will speed things up.
"[Department of Public Safety] gave us an estimate of six to eight months on the return of the evidence, as opposed to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's [Office], which gave us a turnaround in three weeks," Bird said Monday.
It would cost the county $5,700 to pay Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office for the results, according to Hill's request to commissioners. Hill said the money will be taken out of the department's operation budget. County Judge Ray West expressed concern about the department's decision, asking if a defense attorney could argue evidence from medical examiner's office, as opposed to the DPS lab, could be ruled inadmissible in court.
"I have no concern of that at all," Bird said. "They are an accredited laboratory. They testify in multiple jurisdictions."
Meanwhile, deputies declined to answer if they have any suspects in the Blankinship homicide or what evidence they have.
Kinney said some residents in Lake Brownwood want transparency in the investigation.
"They want somebody found," she said. "They want to know what's going on - that is the talk of everybody."
Bird said he'll be traveling to Tarrant County to initiate the DNA process.
"I will be going back to the office now to give them authorization to begin the testing," Bird said.
The reward has also gone up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Blankinship's murder. This is because of a $1,000 pledge Texas Bank made to the Heart of Texas Crime Stoppers.
The Brown County Sheriff's Office possesses the weapon that they believe killed Blankinship.
She was found badly beaten, according to her family.
A large crowd recently attended Blankinship's funeral.