Quincy Allen, convicted of murdering four people in Richland County and North Carolina, might have been stopped after his first victim had the state’s DNA lab moved faster, an investigation by The State newspaper found.

Other S.C. criminals also could be getting away with serious crimes because of backlogs at the State Law Enforcement Division lab, experts say.

Allen, 25, of Columbia, was sentenced to death in March for the summer 2002 slayings of Dale Evonne Hall, 45, and Jedediah Harr, 22, in Richland County. He also pleaded guilty in North Carolina to killing Richard Hawks, 52, and Robert Shane Roush, 29, while running from S.C. authorities.

Before the summer 2002 crime spree, Allen had a prior record for lesser offenses that landed him in SLED’s offender DNA database. But it wasn’t until nearly two months after Hall was killed that SLED matched his DNA to her case.

By that time, Allen had killed three more times.

“Had law enforcement run this simple test, there is little doubt the lives of Jedediah Harr, Richard Hawks and Shane Roush would have been saved,” said Richland County Deputy Public Defender Fielding Pringle, one of Allen’s lawyers. “Quincy’s case is the epitome of a preventable tragedy.”

SLED Chief Robert Stewart and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott acknowledge investigators might have been able to stop Allen after Hall’s death.

But Stewart said “no-suspect” cases such as Hall’s slaying generally are not top priorities at his DNA lab, given heavy caseloads and personnel shortages. He said his agency in 2002 didn’t have extra money to process no-suspect cases more quickly but since then has received federal grants to better deal with the problem.