Houston Forensic Science Center appoints new crime scene unit director following claims of toxic work environment

She's now the first African-American woman crime scene unit director

HOUSTON – Four months after a blistering letter detailing allegations of mismanagement that launched an investigation into the Houston Forensic Science Center’s crime scene unit, the department has a new leader.

HFSC announced Wednesday it has appointed Carina Haynes, a crime scene expert with 12 years of experience, as the new director.

Haynes, the first African-American and woman to hold this position at HFSC, was previously serving as interim director and replaces Jerry Pena, who is retiring effective June 4 after five years as director of CSU.

Haynes joined HFSC as a supervisor in 2017 and was named acting director in January when a letter penned anonymously by a group of past and present crime scene unit investigators called for Pena’s removal, claiming that he was the source of a “toxic and hostile” work environment and largely to blame for issues within the CSU.

HFSC called for the city of Houston’s Office of Inspector General to conduct an independent investigation of the claims made against personnel in the letter.

In a press release announcing the change, HFSC CEO and director, Dr. Peter Stout, who was also called out in the anonymous letter, praised both Haynes and Pena.

“HFSC’s crime scene unit has made enormous strides under Jerry’s leadership, including civilianizing and achieving international accreditation, and we could not have made this much progress without him. Carina, with her extraordinary focus on quality and vast knowledge in the crime scene investigation field, will now lead the unit to the next chapter, which includes a much-needed expansion to better serve Houston’s needs,” he said.

Haynes says her focus in the next year is on expanding CSU as it continues a five-year plan to double its current staff of 40 and acknowledged the internal turmoil.

“Making sure that they are taking care of their mental wellness, making sure they’re getting the training they need, and that we’re all working as a team. I’ve been able to see their different personalities and the way that they work and been able to trust them and they’ve been able to trust me. I just want to make sure that we are being effective and delivering quality work to the citizens,” she said.

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