EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

October 14, 2012

Unlikely road to scandal

BOSTON (AP) — As a girl and young woman, Annie Dookhan was quiet, unassuming, not one to wear makeup. She was charming but stood out more for her dedication to her studies, and by all accounts seemed headed for success.

The only child of hard-working immigrant parents, she enjoyed their pride as she glided through a prestigious Boston prep school, graduated from college with a degree in biochemistry and appeared to be on a track to medical school.

Now, as she takes center stage in a shocking scandal that has sent the Massachusetts legal system into a tailspin, those familiar with her from school and work are struggling to reconcile the Annie Dookhan they knew with the chemist accused of falsifying criminal drug tests.

“I find it hard to believe that she was an individual who decided to falsify lab results ... that she would turn into someone who did something like that. ... That isn’t the person I remember,” said John Warner, an instructor who gave her A’s and A-minuses in 2000 when she took his biochemistry class as a senior at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

“Obviously, things can happen to people,” he said. “Either something happened in her life that changed the person that she is, or this is a deeper story.”

Dookhan’s struggle with both personal and professional problems in 2009 — including a miscarriage and a legal ruling that put new pressures on chemists at the lab — may help offer an explanation, one former co-worker said.

“Perhaps she was trying to be important by being the go-to person,” Elizabeth O’Brien told state police, who shut down the lab in August after discovering the extent of Dookhan’s alleged mishandling of drug samples sent to the lab by local police departments.

In her own interview with police, Dookhan said she had not tested all the drugs she claimed she did, forged initials of her co-workers, and sometimes mixed drug samples to cover her tracks.

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