MPD turns up 7,000 more unprocessed rape kits - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

MPD turns up 7,000 more unprocessed rape kits

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong told stunned city council members Tuesday it will take more than $4.5 million to process 14,000 rape kits in the department's possession after 7,000 more kits were found.

But Director Armstrong said investigators are nearly ready to turn over more than 250 processed kits to the Shelby County District Attorney's Office.

The prospects of what the evidence trails could lead to is to say the least mind-boggling. A serial rapist? Hundreds or thousands of sexual assaults which went undetected or unsubstantiated for years?

Director Armstrong and his investigators are determined to get to the truth thousands of unprocessed rape kits each may hold.

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It's probably a good thing some city council members got a chance to grab some lunch before the start of their public safety committee meeting. Because Director Armstrong's first monthly update on the status of his department's efforts to clear the backlog of thousands of unprocessed rape kits dating back decades proved to be stomach churning in a number of ways.
 
"I really hadn't put a dollar amount to it," he said. "But, now that we have, I can say that it is as you say ... jaw-dropping!"

A little more than two weeks after Director Armstrong received an executive order from Mayor A C Wharton to give him and council members periodic reports on how the processing is progressing, Director Armstrong didn't sugarcoat the enormity of the task.

"What we had to do was formulate rape kits," he said. "We had so many pieces of property in our property room. We have an additional 12,000 in our possession now. So, that's aside from the 2,226 that we're already addressing at this time."

As eye-popping as the figure of more than 14,000 rape kits is, so too is the price tag for completely testing and clearing them all, estimated by Armstrong, at a whopping $4.6 million. It's prompted the police director to ask the council for an additional $300,000 as another installment payment on the project.

"I'll come back to council in mid-year," Director Armstrong said. "If I feel like I need additional dollars to continue this project then we'll do that. But, I certainly don't want three or four years down the line, for us to continue to talk about this."

But, the laborious task, now assigned to six police investigators, is already turning up potentially frightening results. Armstrong says of the first 330 processed kits so far, 253 have come back positive for DNA.

That's 70 percent.

"We're in the process of the continued investigation on those as well as presenting those cases to the AG's, who probably going to have to go to the grand jury for some type of indictment," he said.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich said just as labor intensive for the investigators will be the work of notifying potential victims of what could lie ahead for them.

"They spend a lot of time and a lot of extra effort going above and beyond the call of duty to make this, to lessen the trauma as much as they can," DAG Weirich said.

"Dealing with rape victims in itself is a very, very, difficult process," Director Armstrong added. "You can't imagine how a traumatic experience that is."

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