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Some untested rape kits may not need lab review

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TWC News: Some untested rape kits may not need lab review
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When it comes to untested rape kits in Texas, it's not when they'll be tested, but if they can be tested.

In Austin alone, about two sexual assaults are reported each day on average, but unlike most police departments across Texas, the Austin Police Department has its own crime lab staffed with five forensic scientists working to solve crime.

"That is something that Austin is very fortunate to have the resources to do. Understand there are other departments that don't have those types of resources," Lt. Michael Eveleth with the Austin Police Department said.

Two years ago, the 82nd Legislature passed Senate Bill 1636 which mandated all untested rape kits be counted. Almost 16,000 were reported to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

But under federal law, certain criteria must be met before a kit can be tested and placed into a national database.

Investigation issues including unfounded allegations, a lack of a clean sample, an uncooperative victim and unavailable elimination samples all can keep kits shelved.

"It's those that we select for DNA testing, go on through the whole DNA testing process," Lt. Eveleth said.

DNA Crime Lab Supervisor Cassie Carradine estimates a little more than 400 rape kits sit untested in an APD evidence room. She says the notion of processing the thousands of kits is short-sighted.

"Saying across the board that every single sexual assault kit that’s taken in the entire state of Texas needs to be processed is really probably more likely to bottle neck the system as opposed to help the system," Carradine said.

While APD clears its cases, the thousands of untested kits statewide may someday have their day, first in a lab and then in court.

But first, Texas lawmakers must approve the funds to finish the job it started two years ago.

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