Schenectady County

Records tangle delays Schenectady drug probe

The woman charged last Sunday night with stabbing her boyfriend to death in their Van Vranken Avenue

The woman charged last Sunday night with stabbing her boyfriend to death in their Van Vranken Avenue apartment had been sought by police for nearly two months on heroin possession and cocaine charges.

But, while a police detective searched for Jacqueline Smalls and an arrest warrant had been issued in the case, problems transferring information to the district attorney’s office and a set of coincidences, along with some bad luck, allowed Smalls to remain at large in the drug case until after she was arrested in the stabbing, according to interviews conducted with authorities.

How — or whether — Smalls’ arrest in the drug case might have affected later events is unknowable.

What is known is that patrol officers encountered Smalls early on the morning of July 30 as the victim in a domestic violence case. Police checked her name and information against outstanding warrants and found nothing, they said.

That same interaction, though, resulted in misdemeanor charges against Smalls’ boyfriend, Adrian L. King. It also resulted in a judge issuing a stay-away order which meant King was barred from any contact with Smalls.

Despite the court order, authorities said, there is no indication that either Smalls or King moved out of their apartment at 1512 Van Vranken Ave. Smalls never complained again to police about King’s presence there.

The next call to that address was for a report of a man stabbed in the chest.

The investigation into the stabbing, which killed King, prompted authorities to charge Smalls with first-degree manslaughter.

Confusion in warrant

Smalls’ drug case began on May 15 when, authorities now say, she possessed heroin at her apartment. She sold it to an undercover police operative, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed after King’s death.

She is further accused of doing the same thing nine days later — possessing and selling heroin.

She wasn’t arrested on the spot, however, and the case instead was sent to a grand jury to consider an indictment. Authorities said such a practice protects a larger drug investigation, where piecemeal arrests might tip off others that an undercover operation is under way.

The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office brought the case to the grand jury and on June 26 a sealed indictment was returned, charging her with two felony counts each of third-degree criminal possession and sale of a controlled substance.

On July 2 the office hand-delivered the arrest warrant to the police department and, by July 11, that arrest warrant was entered into the police department’s system.

According to interviews with the district attorney’s office and the police department this week, the arrest warrant was flawed from the start. Central to the problem was information it contained and the existence of two people with similar appearance and similar ages, each named Jacqueline Smalls.

The warrant, those involved discovered this week, ended up being filed under an identifying number for the other Jacqueline Smalls, who had ties to New York City.

The initial information sent to the district attorney’s office for the indictment included Smalls’ name, a correct mug shot and description.

According to District Attorney Robert Carney, identifying information connected to the mug shot and the Schenectady Smalls wasn’t included, nor was a criminal history, which the department would have had access to. A space for that photo-identifying information was left blank, Carney said.

The result was a district attorney’s investigator trying to fill in the blanks, finding the other Smalls and sending an identifying number connected to her with the warrant.

Photos of the two women appeared to match, as well as the description, and obviously the semi-unusual name, Carney said.

The criminal history information or the identifying number with the mug shot, had they been included, would have quickly ruled out the New York City Smalls, Carney noted.

When he discovered the bad information on the warrant this week, Carney said he moved to ensure it was lifted. The wrong Smalls could have been arrested on the warrant, Carney said, though the mistake would have been quickly realized.

Schenectady Police Department’s Lt. Eric Clifford said Friday he wasn’t familiar with exactly what was sent to the district attorney’s office. But, he said, clearly there was a breakdown in communication.

“Moving forward,” Clifford said, “we clearly need to be more careful with the procedures that are in place so that this doesn’t ever happen again.”

Pursuit of drug case

Despite the problems associated with the drug arrest warrant, the search for the correct Smalls continued. A detective was assigned the case when the warrant came in and watched Smalls’ apartment on multiple occasions, but never saw her, Clifford said. He then received information that she may have been moving back and forth from New York City.

Clifford said he doesn’t believe the investigator knocked on the door. That would be due to caution used in approaching homes of felony drug suspects without proper intelligence on who or what is inside.

The detective, though, also didn’t get word of the July 30 police encounter with Smalls when she was the victim, and King was the one arrested.

King had twice earlier this year been accused of choking Smalls. They had a tumultuous relationship, but had remained together. Clifford, overseeing the homicide investigation, said there was no evidence that King attacked Smalls the night he was stabbed.

But on July 30, she tried to call police again, but he was accused of breaking her phone to prevent her from doing so.

The patrol officers who responded to the address took Smalls’ name and information. They also ran her name for possible warrants, but nothing came up, Clifford said.

No connection was made to the drug warrant, which was entered under the wrong identifying number.

The next police encounter with the two came late on the evening of Aug. 26 when King was fatally stabbed in the chest.

As the investigation progressed into the morning, the detective assigned to find Smalls learned of her arrest. She was then arrested again, this time on the outstanding drug charges.

A weeping Smalls appeared in Schenectady County Court to face the drug indictment on Wednesday. She entered no plea, and the formal arraignment put off until next week.

She remains in the Schenectady County Jail with no bail set.

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