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Autopsy stalled in Moorhead shooting

Joel LaFromboise, in an undated family photo.

Moorhead police may be waiting two more months for autopsy results for Joel LaFromboise, a 17-year-old who was shot and killed in June after wandering into a stranger's apartment.

It's not an unusual delay for the state crime lab, and no particular reason was given for the holdup, said Lt. Tory Jacobson.

Lab results of every kind are slow to arrive, he said.

"We've had that with everything from fingerprints to this, that and the other thing," Jacobson said.

Police were hoping at one point to get results as soon as two to four weeks after the incident, which did not lead to any charges for the shooter, Vernon Allen.

Deputy Chief Shannon Monroe said the estimates from the St. Paul crime lab about how long a report will take are always fluid. Priority is given to serious crimes such as homicide, so any timeline can be upset by a new investigation.

For lesser cases such as theft and burglary, DNA testing and fingerprinting can take so long "it's almost nonexistent," Monroe said. A yearlong wait is common, he said.

Monroe said it's too soon to speculate, but the results of the autopsy - which will include a toxicology report showing whether LaFromboise was under the influence of drugs or alcohol - are unlikely to change the investigation much.

Reports by Allen and the residents of other homes LaFromboise entered that night suggest the teenager was disoriented. His family has said they don't believe LaFromboise was drinking or using drugs.

The backlog at the state crime lab isn't linked to the recent increase in requests for tests of blood and urine samples in the wake of a court challenge to breath-testing instruments. Those tests are done by a different unit in the lab, and the toxicology reports are sent out-of-state, Monroe said.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which runs the St. Paul lab, did not return a message seeking comment Friday.

Physical evidence has value even if not processed promptly. Monroe recalled a recent case where Moorhead police solved a house burglary after DNA from the scene was matched to a man arrested three years later in Grand Forks.

"You do the investigation as far as you can take it," Monroe said.