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Kit Carson Man’s Investigation of Death Held up by CBI Crime Lab

By Betsy Barnett

June 7, 2024

In January 2024 local ranch hand Rusty Paintin died in a still undefined incident at his home in Wild Horse. At the time a great deal of speculation spread like a wildfire across the region with numerous uncorroborated stories concerning Paintin’s cause of death and the details surrounding the death. Cheyenne County Sheriff Michael Buchanan at the time, immediately referred the case to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation because Buchanan was personally related to the situation.

The incident occurred on January 19, 2024, where it was initially rumored the civic-minded and well-liked Paintin had passed away—but there was no clear reason why or what had happened. However, three days later Paintin was still technically alive in a front range hospital where he had been taken by ambulance after the initial incident. The longtime Kit Carson area resident was pronounced dead on January 22, 2024, by the Cheyenne County Coroner, although the obituary at the funeral home that was in charge of Paintin’s arrangements listed his death on January 23, 2024.

A press release from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation indicated, “At approximately 11:35 pm on Saturday, January 19, 2024, deputies with the Cheyenne County Sheriff’s Office responded to a home in the 2000 Block of County Road BB and located a resident of the home with injuries. The man was initially transported to a local hospital, but then transferred to a Denver area hospital for treatment.” …. “Rusty Paintin (DOB: 03/04/1969) of Cheyenne County later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased on Monday, January 22, 2024.”

Since that press release, nearly five months ago, no other information has been provided to the public despite two inquiries by the Kiowa County Independent to the CBI.

On Friday, May 24, 2024, Sheriff Buchanan responded to an inquiry by the Independent asking for any updated information on the case since the cause of death and manner of death had never been provided. Sheriff Buchanan indicated, “To my knowledge there have been no incident reports filed with the courts. The last thing I was updated on was a while ago and we were told the CBI forensics team was working on the case and given a 90-day time frame. That time frame has since gone long by.”

In response to Sheriff Buchanan’s updated information, on Monday, June 3, 2024, the Independent sent a CORA request to the CBI and received the following statement from Natalie Olson, on behalf of the acting director of the CBI, “As this is a current ongoing and active investigation, disclosure of this criminal justice records could affect the integrity of the investigation. Therefore, the CBI denies your request for records at this time pursuant to C.R.S 24-72-303(4)(e) because of the ongoing investigation, and because it would be contrary to the public interest.”

A follow-up statement from CBI Agent Rob Lowe stated, “As of now, death is undetermined, but the victim died from a gunshot wound and the case remains under investigation while we await further lab testing results.”

Lowe’s statement was corroborated by Sue Kern, Cheyenne County Coroner on Thursday who stated the cause of death was a gun shot wound. But, according to Kern, the official death certificate does not indicate the manner of death and instead lists it as “pending.” Kern said her office is also waiting on the CBI lab report to be finalized and filed with her office. At this time no charges have been made in the case by the District Attorney’s office.

CBI Agent Lowe further informed the Independent that the CBI crime lab has been severely backed up since the Yvonne Woods issue was discovered. That issue is unrelated to the Paintin case, but the Paintin investigation—and evidently most CBI investigations—have been slowed down substantially because of the Woods case and the response CBI gave to the case.

On Wednesday, June 5, 2024, the Independent received the following press release from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation referencing the Woods crime lab situation that has now substantially slowed down any further information local citizens will receive concerning the Rusty Paintin case:

Colorado Bureau of Investigation Releases Internal Affairs Report into Former Forensic Scientist Missy Woods

June 5, 2024 – CBI – Lakewood, CO

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has learned that the report summarizing its internal affairs investigation into the conduct of former analyst Yvonne “Missy” Woods has been disclosed to the public, and that portions of that report will soon be published in the news media. As a result of that release, the CBI has determined that it is necessary and appropriate to share the contents of the 94-page Internal Affairs Report to provide as much transparency as possible without compromising any ongoing investigations.

The report is partially redacted, as required by Colorado law, to protect the privacy interest of all parties involved in this investigation. Additionally, Woods’ statement to investigators has been redacted to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation.

Key Findings in the Report

  • Woods omitted material facts in official criminal justice records.
  • Woods tampered with DNA testing by altering or omitting some test results from the case file.
  • Woods’ tampering was not detected by CBI’s existing review processes.
  • CBI has found no evidence that Woods falsified any DNA matches.
  • Woods violated CBI’s Code of Conduct and laboratory policies, spanning from data retention to quality control measures.
  • Anomalies in Woods’ work were reported in September 2023.
  • She was placed on administrative leave on October 3, 2023.
  • Woods retired on November 6, 2023, before the investigation could be completed.
  • In 2023, a research project initiated by management at a CBI laboratory discovered an anomaly in Woods’ test data, which led to further investigation and discovery of additional manipulation.
  • In 2014, a coworker questioned Woods’ testing of evidence in a case and reported concerns to a Technical Leader.
  • In 2018, Woods was accused of data manipulation.
    • In response, she was removed from casework and given other duties pending a review of the accusation.
    • After the review, Woods was later reinstated.
    • The results of the 2018 review were not escalated to the former CBI Director or CDPS leadership.
    • CBI has initiated additional investigations into the circumstances surrounding the 2018 process.

“Following the discovery of Woods’ actions in manipulating DNA analysis data in 2023, CBI is meticulously reviewing all of its testing protocols,” said CBI Director Chris Schaefer. “Not only is Woods’ caseload being reviewed, but we are auditing the results of all current and previous DNA scientists to ensure the integrity of the Lab.”

To provide independent, external investigative support with its internal affairs investigation, CBI collaborated with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. CBI continues to work closely with its public safety partners, especially district attorneys, regarding Woods’ casework. A separate criminal investigation into Woods’ actions by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation remains ongoing.

In September 2023, as part of a research project assigned by management at a CBI laboratory, it was discovered that certain data was missing from records of Woods’ test results. A thorough internal investigation was immediately initiated. It revealed that Woods manipulated data in the DNA testing process, leading to incomplete test results in certain cases. It also found she concealed her activities from the technical review process. She engaged in the deletion and alteration of data, and she failed to provide thorough documentation in case records related to certain tests performed.

While the review did not find evidence of Woods falsifying DNA matches or fabricating DNA profiles, Woods deviated from standard testing protocols and cut corners, raising concerns about the reliability of her testing.

“We deeply regret that one of our analysts violated CBI’s code of conduct and failed to maintain our high standards,” said Schaefer.

CBI Response

In response to the discovery of Woods’ actions, the CBI is in the process of a comprehensive review of all of Woods’ previous work to ensure the credibility of all laboratory results. CBI’s Quality Management team continues to diligently review Woods’ work. Currently, 654 cases have been identified as affected by Woods’ data manipulation. A review of Woods’ work from 1994 to 2008 remains underway. Based on the CBI IA investigation’s outcomes, CBI is evaluating and already implementing changes to enhance the integrity of its testing processes and results. Policy changes have already been implemented to address the specific vulnerabilities exploited by Woods.

Further, CBI conducted an internal review of the results of current and former DNA scientists at CBI-accredited labs throughout the state to guarantee the accuracy and completeness of its records. CBI continues to seek outside perspectives to enhance the integrity and reliability of its forensic testing processes and will continue to make improvements consistent with industry best practices.

“While the focus of the IA addressed Woods’ misconduct, we acknowledge that it took too long to detect ongoing intentional manipulation of our Lab system,” said Schaefer. “We are in the process of identifying an external vendor to conduct an organizational review to ensure that our forensic services procedures and systems adhere to CBI’s high standards.”

The assessment will ensure laboratory-wide adherence to industry best practices, scientifically sound policies and procedures, and proper management and oversight.

Throughout this comprehensive investigative process, CBI Forensic Services has maintained open communication with its accreditation body to safeguard its accreditation status.

Further details regarding these changes will be provided upon completion of the process.

In Summary

Commitment to Integrity: CBI reaffirms its unwavering commitment to accurate and trusted forensics testing. We are dedicated to maintaining laboratory testing integrity and upholding public trust.

System Manipulation: Yvonne “Missy” Woods was able to manipulate the DNA testing system. Ultimately CBI detected Woods’ manipulation and removed her from her position.

Comprehensive Review: CBI is currently conducting a thorough review of all Woods’ cases to ensure accuracy in the results. Policy changes have already been implemented to address the specific vulnerabilities exploited by Woods.

Process Improvement: CBI is reviewing its processes and procedures to prevent similar manipulation from occurring in the future. Additionally, a third-party organizational assessment of our forensic services procedures and management structures will be completed.

In order to protect the integrity of a pending criminal investigation, no further information can be released at this time.

Anyone wishing to request a copy of the Woods’ IA report can do so by filing a records request at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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