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Officials ask UNA to reopen forensics lab to help clear evidence backlog

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COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - A family in the Shoals has waited since June to find a loved one who went missing, and because of the backlog in forensic evidence testing, they will have to wait even longer.

Leon Tidwell's family reported him missing near Riverton Rose Trail in Colbert County in June. Late-October, hunters found human remains in that same area.

Now, Sheriff Frank Williamson is still waiting to see if DNA evidence will help identify the body as Leon Tidwell.

"The letter that we got from the forensics lab was six months," Williamson said. "When we talked to them, they say six months to a year, and that's not really fair to the family. And, it's not fair to our guys because we worked on it so hard."

The Tidwell case is one of more than 300 from Colbert County waiting for testing at the forensics lab in Huntsville. From drug cases to a capital murder case, investigators are at a standstill.

"We really need some relief and I thought that if UNA will open their forensics lab, then it will relieve some, especially for northwest Alabama."

Sheriff Williamson has been in contact with UNA officials over the past few months and said they are working on that request. He said it would be a win-win by helping to serve the people of Colbert county while also training forensic scientists at the university. However, it would take some money, and political support. You can help clear out some of that backlog at the Huntsville forensics lab. Williamson asked that you contact your senator or representative and ask them to support re-opening the lab at the University of North Alabama.