For months, police in the Braintree, Ma., police department had complained about Susan Zopatti, a veteran officer who was in charge of the evidence room. She wasn’t doing her job and sometimes appeared hung over and “out of it.” Officers couldn’t get the evidence they needed for court hearings, reports the Boston Globe. They repeatedly warned their supervisors that Zopatti was not fit to oversee an inventory of seized money and drugs. “Something was wrong with Sue,” one former Braintree officer said. A 50-year-old who had worked in her hometown department for almost 21 years, Zopatti desperately needed help. She was kind, helpful, and funny, and was struggling to care for her cancer-stricken mother, so her supervisors gave her leeway and a flexible schedule.
Despite growing concerns about her increasingly unreliable behavior — and a request from the deputy chief that Zopatti be transferred from her post — Chief Russell Jenkins left her in charge of the evidence room, a position that one person with knowledge of the situation described as perhaps the most important in the department. Had anyone taken a close look at her workplace, they would have found torn evidence bags missing cocaine and cash, a scandalous disarray that now threatens to compromise hundreds of criminal cases and has triggered an investigation by the state attorney general’s office. Jenkins, after announcing he would retire next month at the mayor’s request, said he knew about Zopatti’s checkered history in the department. Zopatti committed suicide in May after meeting with an auditor brought in by Jenkins to inspect the evidence room. By that time, more than $400,000 had vanished, some of it through holes cut in the bottom of evidence bags. Thousands of drug samples and between 60 and 70 guns were gone. Two of the guns were later found in Zopatti’s home.