Upper Darby police were searching for $8,000 that went missing from their evidence room and may have gone up in smoke.

Police Superintendent Michael J. Chitwood said that his department was investigating how the money had disappeared, but that he feared it might have been accidentally destroyed. He asked the District Attorney's Office to conduct a separate investigation.

Police confiscated the money in November 2009 after responding to a report that a man was pointing a gun at his wife. Police entered the home, saw marijuana and crack cocaine in plain view, and found the cash in an upstairs bedroom, Chitwood said. They arrested the husband and another man.

The drugs, money, and a few other items were logged in, and the cash was placed in a lockbox accessible to only a few people, including an evidence technician and Capt. George Rhoades, who oversees the unit, Chitwood said.

The money's disappearance was discovered May 5 after a Delaware County judge ruled the search of the home illegal and ordered the cash returned, Chitwood said.

"Everything was in the evidence box but the $8,000," he said. "We have searched the entire evidence room twice."

The only explanation has been offered by the evidence technician, who remembered having the money out for counting when an emergency interrupted him, Chitwood said. The technician may not have returned the evidence envelope to its proper box, said Chitwood, who did not identify him.

The department periodically burns evidence it no longer needs, Chitwood said, and "he feels that he could have mistakenly put it in one of the burns."

The township cut an $8,000 check to make good on the court order, Chitwood said.

"Obviously, I have to look at all the protocols and procedures," he said. "We shouldn't be losing $8,000 in any way, shape, or form."

He said the technician was an exemplary employee. "We only have people of high moral character handle this stuff," Chitwood said. "He is very upset."

Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149 or mschaefer@phillynews.com.

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