TBI outsourcing rape kits to lab in Florida

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 4:19 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is outsourcing rape kits to a laboratory in Florida.

TBI received a $1.5 million federal grant to expedite the analysis of these kits, which will go to DNA Labs International in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

“This outsourcing project helps us take an immediate step, as we continue to discuss longer-term fixes,” said TBI Director David Rausch. “We’re hopeful the General Assembly will approve budget enhancements called for in Governor Lee’s plan, which we believe addresses key staffing and resource needs to better position the Bureau for a bright future.”

TBI sent 550 kits to the lab, with a goal of sending up to 1,000 before the end of 2023 if more grant funding becomes available. They say it’d cost more than $2,000 for private analysis per kit.

State Senator London Lamar from Memphis, who filed a bill to reduce the turnaround time to test kits to 30 days, supports the outsourcing.

“I think it’s the right decision to outsource and get these outdated tests done and ensure that we can expedite the process in finding out whose responsible for many of these crimes that have been reported, and the DNA is in these tests, and we can help bring justice to families who have come forward,” said Senator Lamar.

The move comes after intense scrutiny aimed at the TBI after the murder of Memphis mother Eliza Fletcher.

Days after her body was found, her accused killer Cleotha Henderson was indicted for the 2021 rape of another Memphis woman, Alicia Franklin.

Franklin’s rape kit went untested for nearly a year.

Senator Lamar says she supports the TBI’s latest fit, but only as a short-term solution.

“I appreciate TBI doing this in order to get this testing done, but let’s not make this a habit. Let’s go ahead and put in policies right now so we don’t have to have backlogs as we’ve seen,” said Senator Lamar.

According to TBI, it currently takes about 34 weeks for a rape kit to be tested and results to be turned over to law enforcement. At the Jackson lab, which also services Shelby County, it takes on average 42.4 weeks to test evidence in sexual offenses, as of October 2022.

“We are thankful to our partners for awarding us this funding to help the Bureau take a major step forward in our efforts to analyze these kits,” said Mike Lyttle, Assistant Director of TBI’s Forensic Services Division. “We’re confident this is the right step forward.”

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