Weber County Sheriff’s Employee Was High on Meth, Overdosed at Work, Failed to Submit Rape Kits and Other Evidence

For years, deputies at the Weber County Sheriff’s Office — trained to detect people on drugs — reported that their evidence room technician was high on methamphetamine.

They pointed to numerous times she struggled to maintain balance; how she could never find evidence; her profuse sweating or inaudible rambling; the white residue pooling in the corners of her mouth.

They said her appearance had changed. She cut off all her hair and replaced it with a “cheaply made wig.” She stopped showering and began picking at her face, eventually causing scarring. These were classic signs of a drug user, deputies said.

They said she could be getting the drugs from the evidence room. They said she should be drug tested.

Then-Lt. Kevin Burns, at the time the supervisor of the evidence room, dismissed the allegations, saying he didn’t have enough evidence to do anything and his “hands were tied,” according to one employee.

On Dec. 8, the day after it was announced Burns was being promoted to chief deputy of the jail, the evidence against the employee, Candy Follum, was too blatant to ignore. A citizen trying to receive evidence in a closed investigation called police to report Follum was “not right in the head.”

Three officers arrived and found Follum overdosing on meth while at work.

She later told investigators she became addicted to meth while working in the evidence room, and her habit started three years prior. She said she would steal meth from closed cases rather than destroy it, though investigators found drugs missing in open cases.

Follum told investigators she ingested meth by chewing it and had become a daily user. She said she took meth in 15 to 20 cases, but also said she came into work on her days off to steal and do meth. She would jam the empty evidence packaging under her desk to conceal it.

She denied taking money or personal property, but investigators found that wasn’t true.

Follum’s behavior is discussed in more than 100 pages the Weber County Sheriff’s Office provided to The Salt Lake Tribune after the newspaper made a public records request. The pages also discuss the failure of her supervisor — Burns — to intervene.

The sheriff’s office attempted to redact some pages and passages, including Follum’s interview with investigators. But when the redacted sections were highlighted in a PDF viewer on a desktop computer, the sections became readable.

Follum, who is married to a Weber County sheriff’s deputy, has not been charged with any crimes, though she remains under investigation.

She was searching for the evidence — a large bag of clothes and a wallet — in small envelopes. She also was not wearing shoes. Follum was struggling to stand, her speech was slurred and she had glassy eyes, according to an investigation report done after Follum was fired in January.

One deputy activated his body camera to film Follum. They all discussed how she was clearly on drugs. Burns arrived, saw Follum and asked a sergeant to write a report. At 11:05 p.m., that sergeant, who had been working a day shift, received a call from Burns, he told investigators.

Burns asked him if Follum’s behavior could have been the result of a medical issue. The sergeant said he believed she was overdosing on a narcotic. Burns responded that he thought it was a medical issue.

The sergeant reiterated he thought it was drug-related, to which Burns asked if it “could” have been a medical issue, the report states. It was later determined that Burns had been in the evidence room with Follum two hours before her public overdose.

A responding sergeant later told investigators that he felt pressured by Burns to lie about how he perceived the situation, saying it could have been a medical incident rather than an overdose.

The sergeant responded that it was possible that it was a medical issue. He told investigators that he said this because he felt his superior was pressuring him to do so.

Three days later, Burns was in a meeting with other managers and brought the incident up. He said there were rumors that Follum was on drugs.

He “asked the command staff to help put an end to these rumors,” the report states.

Two days later Follum was put on administrative leave.

On April 9, the sheriff’s office announced that Burns was no longer with the office. Burns said he was forced to retire in order to keep his pension.

Burns is running for Weber County sheriff. With current Sheriff Terry Thompson not seeking re-election, Burns will face two other candidates in the June primary.

“I have a lot of success in leadership positions at the sheriff’s office,” Burns told The Salt Lake Tribune in a phone interview Friday. “Every once in a while, a leader gets something wrong. That should not define my entire career.”

Burns says his force-out is political retribution, but Thompson said he gave Burns the promotion because he trusted him and wanted to put him in the best position to win the election.

It is not clear how Thompson or Chief Deputy Klint Anderson didn’t catch wind of the blatant disregard for the evidence room or the rumors of Follum’s drug use for years. Burns said he had conversations with Anderson about Follum and her inability to do her job as expected.

“It is aggravating and disappointing to me that I was not made aware that these concerns were not being appropriately addressed,” Thompson said in a prepared response to Tribune questions.

Thompson declined to be interviewed. He said he would respond to written questions by email to make sure he is giving legal answers.

The Dec. 8 incident was the most public of Follum’s drug-induced behavior, but it was far from the only. Investigators found complaints about Follum dated back to 2015.

After Follum was fired, investigators went into the evidence room. They noticed the metal mesh bottom of the door had been cut so someone could crawl through it, and the lock had been broken. The damage was covered up with butcher paper.

It was determined Follum lost her key, and rather than ask for a new one she forced entry, broke the lock and tried to cover it up. It had been like that for three months, unreported.

Once inside, they found the evidence room in “disarray.” Boxes of evidence were strewn about. Physical evidence was in one location while the evidence sheet, indicating where the corresponding evidence should be, was found in entirely different locations. One sergeant noted there were “deer trails” cleared to be able to walk around the stacked-up evidence.

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