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Number of untested rape kits even higher than anticipated

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

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton says he's bringing in a "new set of eyes" to help the police department in its efforts to process thousands of rape kits.

Wharton made that announcement after a city council committee granted his request for a two week delay.

The committee wants to find out if there are more untested kits than previously reported. 

It's too crucial an issue to make any mistakes.

That's why Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is playing it close to vest in not disclosing how far off the numbers are when it comes to thousands in untested rape kits being processed by the Memphis Police Department.

If mistakes are made...."sorry, could be the hardest word."

MORE: MPD turns up 7,000 more unprocessed rape kits

He is a master of the southern art form of ‘hemmin' and ‘hawing'. "We simply did not have it ready… We simply were not ready today… I said go back. Ya'll go count some more. So, that's when we give a number to the Council we can stick with it," said Wharton.

But, even with his verbal gymnastics, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton couldn't schmooze over the latest disturbing news of an unexplained snag in the Memphis Police Department's processing of thousands of discovered rape-kits.

Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery says, "The Council is really disappointed in the fact that every day there seems to be something new coming up with these rape-kits. There needs to be a definitive number."

It was Wharton, who quietly and through an administrative aide, ask for a delay of two weeks before MPD could present its latest accounting of the rape kit processing. Last month, MPD Director Toney Armstrong stunned a Council committee by announcing the previous number of found and untested kits had risen beyond previous estimates.

"We have an additional 12-thousand in our possession now. So, that's aside from the 2,226 that we're already addressing at this time," said MPD Director Toney Armstrong back in November.

But, it was a stern-faced Wharton, after a barrage of questions, who hesitantly admitted without specifics, the number of kits may have taken another unexpected jump he nor Armstrong were prepared to share with Council members....for now.

Wharton says, "We want to be comprehensive. We want to be accurate and I simply was not comfortable with some of the numbers that we had; whether that truly embraced everything that we're looking at."

Deborah Clubb of the Memphis Womens' Council said, "Maybe something shifted about how the catalogue looks. Maybe there are more kits that have never had testing than they thought. There are three or four different ways that these numbers could shift around. I just hope we're not talking about hundreds or thousands more."

Yet, despite the ominous possibilities of more kits and more money to process them, the resolve to finish the job still remains for city officials and rape victims as well.

 "Whatever it takes this must be done. Regardless of how much money it will cost, those rape kits must be tested," says Lowery.

Memphis rape victim Meaghan Ybos says, "Hopefully, everyone is crossing their ‘T's' and dotting their ‘I's' and figure out how we can address this problem in a way that not only fixes the 12-thousand or so, give or take, but also address the reasons as to how we got here and prevent this from happening again."

MORE: Progress being made in processing of rape kits
MORE:
Wharton issues rape kit testing executive order
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Memphis council to fund testing backlogged rape kits
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Council grills MPD about backlogged rape kits
MORE: MPD gets $500K grant to test 2,200 backlogged rape kits
MORE: RAINN: What is a rape kit?

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