Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More Untested Rape Kits Found

Posted By on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 11:49 AM

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Memphis Police Department [MPD] officials said they have found another 200 untested sexual assault kits in evidence storage facilities, which brings the total number of untested kits in Memphis to 12,360.

The newly found kits date back to 1976, according to MPD Deputy Chief Jim Harvey. They were not listed in any evidence inventory that would have revealed their location. They were found at the police evidence facility at the old International Harvester plant in Frayser.

MPD director Toney Armstrong said the facility is “massive” and “about two or three football fields long.” But neither the size of the place nor the task will not deter the efforts to find more kits, he said.

“I want every piece of evidence in our possession to searched and re-searched to make sure we are doing our due diligence to clear up this rape kit backlog,” Armstrong told council members in a committee meeting Tuesday. “The first time I came forward (with the untested rape kit backlog), I said the number will change and that we would not stop until we are satisfied that every kit in the MPD’s possession has been located. We have been going through that process for those victims that they get the investigation they deserve.”

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The oldest kits found so far date back to 1976. Police officials said they are some of the oldest kits found in the country. They said that was likely due to 1975 opening of the Memphis Rape Crisis Center and its rules against destroying any evidence related to sexual assault crimes.

"What we take from this is that it’s a blessing to us that we had the first Rape Crisis Center in Memphis but it’s also a curse,” Harvey said. “We don’t destroy any evidence. We’ve maintained it through the years from (former police headquarters at) 128 Adams and to 201 Poplar and then to International Harvester. We were able to keep that evidence and at the time they were not computerized and we have no computer log of where that evidence was.”

So far, more than 2,000 kits have been tested and about 7,800 may be in need of further analysis, Harvey said. MPD has won some grants to help it test the kits and clear the backlog. In the meantime, he said officers will continue to comb through storage facilities for more evidence.

“They are inventorying items that range from the back seat of a car to toenail clippings stored in multiple locations with previously inadequate tracking or no tracking,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said in a statement after tuesday’s meeting. “It’s a daunting task but we are committed to testing every kit and getting any DNA evidence found into (the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System). Rape survivors deserve no less.”

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