By Tim Cushing
Another horror story involving the government and a drug-testing lab is finally coming to a close. And the owner of the drug lab is going to jail.
Unlike others we’ve covered, this drug lab didn’t contain employees who falsified drug tests that landed people in jail. But the outcome for the innocent was nearly as miserable. Faked drug tests performed by Brandy Murrah, the owner of A & J Lab Collections, resulted in parents losing their children.
As Ozark police continue to investigate reports of falsified drug and paternity cases involving a company contracted by the Department of Human Resources, families are coming forward with claims forged documents impacted their homes.
Jennifer Seavers is one of them.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t cry, and I just want to bring my babies home as any parent would want to do,” Seavers said.
Seavers says she used the Department of Human Resource’s Pike County drug testing vendor, Brandy Murrah of A & J Lab Collections, as part of her custody battle for her youngest girls, Madilyn and Jennifer Grace.
Seavers said Murrah provided false positive drug tests, which prompted a judge to order restrictions on her access to her children – further complicating the custody battle.
This victim dug into the lab work supposedly performed by Murrah and found her test had been faked. The doctor that supposedly signed off on it had never seen the paperwork or reports generated by Murrah, who forged the doctor’s signature on the documents.
The county also began digging into Murrah’s drug testing and found more of the same.
Murrah had an agreement with the Dale County Department of Human Resources to perform drugs test on individuals involved in dependency, or custody, cases. She was not involved in any criminal cases.
Investigators said they launched their probe May 2 after evidence of drug screening reports that were provided to the Dale County Department of Human Resources by Murrah were found to be falsified. Ozark police Sgt. Cody Evans said multiple other drug screening reports provided to DHR are also believed to have been forged by Murrah.
It’s unclear whether Murrah’s actions were prompted by animosity towards her victims or just plain laziness. It really doesn’t matter. Her actions ripped families apart and destroyed people’s futures. But in the end, at least some justice was served.
Judge William Filmore decided Murrah, the former owner of an Ozark lab test collection company, will spend 15 years in prison after hearing testimony from those who said she falsified lab reports that led to their children being taken away.
Murrah pleaded guilty in September, agreeing to 15 years on a felony charge of perjury and 12 months on each of 16 misdemeanor counts of forgery to run concurrently.
This will give victims some closure. But it will only provide limited comfort. Their lives went through serious upheaval. Seavers isn’t the only victim. Grace Newton went through the same nightmare. She fought through her drug problems to get her kids back only to have the state take away her three-month-old infant after a drug test handled by Murrah came back positive. This was reversed after a negative drug test, but for three weeks, the state became her baby’s new parent, thanks to Murrah.
But here’s the thing: it shouldn’t take citizens wronged by a government contractor to suss out malfeasance and wrongdoing. The system residents are paying for with their tax dollars needs to be more proactive with its oversight. Rigorous oversight is difficult. But, ultimately, it’s worth the time and effort. It’s better to be perceived as skeptical than as a group of public servants willing to throw the public to the subcontracted wolves.