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Private investigator says APD made mistakes in case of missing Domain resident

Austin police assumed blood stains at the victim's home were red wine instead of testing them. A private investigator was first to call for a further investigation.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that Roberts' was facing multiple charges, but he is only facing one charge of tampering with physical evidence of a human corpse. 

Now that an arrest has been made in the disappearance of missing Domain resident Justin Haden, people are wondering how Austin police officers mistook blood stains as wine.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals confirmed to KVUE that Gavin Mcloud Roberts was arrested on Nov. 23 by the District of Colorado Violent Offender Task Force at a residence in Thornton. He is charged with tampering with physical evidence of a human corpse.

While the case is moving forward, Steve Russo, a police officer of 22 years and CEO of Watchful Eye Investigations, said the initial officers on the scene made mistakes that hindered the investigation. 

"We've got to get better training," said Russo. "We got to get current training."

According to court documents, 34-year-old Haden, known to friends as "Justice," was last seen entering his apartment complex, the Griffis at The Domain, on Nov. 1 around 1:40 a.m. with another man.

On Nov. 4, Haden's attorney called Austin police for a welfare check after not hearing from him. When police arrived, officers saw what they believed were wine stains on the wall next to a bed.

On Nov. 9, a family-hired private investigator went to the apartment and found that the stains police saw on the wall were blood and found more stains on the bed. He told the Austin Police Department. Later that night, police arrived, tested the substance and agreed it was blood.

Russo said every officer should have a forensic test kit in their unit to test blood, urine and other specimens rapidly.

"If they didn't have it, any common-sense police officer, you know, if there's no broken wine glass there, you're going to say, 'Well, wait a minute, let's investigate this further,'" said Russo.

He also said the rule of thumb in law enforcement is if you see red, assume it's blood until it's determined otherwise. He said, unfortunately, mistakes like this happen often. 

On Nov. 10, APD executed a search warrant to gather evidence and security video, which they say shows Roberts leaving Haden's apartment wearing a medical mask struggling to carry bags and bins.

On Nov. 18, Roberts contacted APD after seeing himself on the news, letting them know he was in Colorado. Police issued an arrest warrant for him that day.

KVUE is in contact with APD, Colorado police and U.S. Marshals to find out when Roberts will be extradited to Austin.

On Wednesday, APD Chief Joseph Chacon told KVUE that he has been informed about the initial police response in Haden's disappearance and that the department is reviewing officers' actions.

"Right now, I do not have enough information to comment further. I am aware of it, and we are actively looking into it," he said.

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