A former lab owner in Alabama has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of falsifying the results of drug screenings, leading multiple families to lose custody of their children.
A judge handed down the sentence to the former owner of A & J Lab Collection owner Brandy Murrah in court last week after prosecutors said she collected lab samples from individuals and never forwarded them for testing, and instead falsified the results, local station WTVY reports.
The lab was regularly used to provide drug screening and paternity tests to the Dale County Department of Human Resources — and some of the false results received from Murrah’s lab cost parents custody of their children.
“She has committed a fraud upon the whole court system,” Kirke Adams, the district attorney for the 33rd Judicial Circuit District Court said, according to The Southeast Sun. “The worst part is for those who suffered because no one believed them—and she did not care.”
Authorities said it was impossible to know how many test results Murrah had falsified. An employee with the Dale County Department of Human Resources testified that she had no idea how many people may have lost custody of their children because of the fake reports.
The employee said the department used Murrah’s lab because she was available around the clock. The agency would tell her what specific drugs to look for as part of the testing.
Authorities believe Murrah may have falsified the testing records because she owed the labs that tested the samples money for previous testing services, and that those facilities may have failed to extend her additional credit, the local station reports.
Jennifer Severs testified in court that she had been in a custody battle with her ex-husband when Murrah collected hair follicle samples for drug screenings of the family, according to The Dothan Eagle. The results showed that Severs had tested positive for using methamphetamine and marijuana, according to WTVY, although the mom was not using drugs. The results cost her to lose custody of her children.
Baffled at the results, Severs’ mother tracked down the doctor who had supposedly done the test from the paperwork and discovered that he had never tested the sample.
The family then took their findings to the Ozark Police Department, which launched the investigation into Murrah’s activities. Severs took additional tests processed by other labs, which came back negative, but she said it still took months to regain custody of her children. The experience has left long-lasting effects on the family, she said.
“This is a daily battle for me on who I can trust,” she said, according to the local paper. “This is a daily battle for my children.”
Grace Locke testified that she had been getting her life together after her two children were taken away from her due to her drug use in 2017. After going to rehab she had a third child, and hoped to reunite her family — but a drug test from Murrah’s lab showed that she tested positive for methamphetamine. Her three-month-old baby was taken from her custody for nearly three weeks.
“It was terrible,” Locke told the court. “I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest because I knew I was doing right with this one. I knew I was doing right.”
While parents affected by the false test results testified about the pain it caused to their families, Murrah’s current employers at a janitorial company testified that she was a hard worker and dependable.
“Brandy cares a lot about people,” her employer said, according to The Southeast Sun. “She absolutely does care.”
Murrah agreed to plead guilty in September to a felony charge of perjury, as well as 16 misdemeanor counts of forgery.
In court last week, Murrah’s attorney David Harrison had argued that his client should be allowed to serve out her sentence in a community corrections program or on probation because of health issues he said would cost the system money.
“If she’s incarcerated, who does it help?” he asked, according to the paper. “At the end of the day, I understand this woman affected peoples’ lives, but she has pleaded guilty and it is a slap in the face to justice not to give her probation.”
Murrah also addressed the judge herself.
“I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my life…I’m sorry for anyone I ever hurt. I really did not do this intentionally to ever hurt anyone,” she said, according to The Dothan Eagle.
However, Adams argued that Murrah did not deserve any leniency in the case.
“She continues to blame everyone else,” he said.
The judge agreed, and Murrah was sentenced to 15 years in prison. She is also facing two civil suits in connection with the allegations, WTVY reports.
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