Hundreds of rape kits remain untested in East Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- There are more than 9,000 untested rape kits in the state, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Two of the law enforcement agencies ranked at the top are in East Tennessee.

Police say it's not because they're not doing their job. There's more to it, than the numbers.

538 rape kits in East Tennessee were never submitted to the TBI for DNA analysis. However, that doesn't necessarily mean those cases have gone unsolved. Knoxville police have nearly 400 rape kits dating back to 1992 that have still gone untested. The sheriff's office has 126.

“Just based on numbers it does look like they're just piling up and no one is taking anyone serious or they don't have the time and that's not the case at all,” says KCSO Captain Brad Park.

So why are they simply sitting on a shelf and collecting dust? Investigators say most times they don't need the evidence to identify the rapist.

"A lot of those cases involved an acquaintance rape, you know who did it, there's no doubt about that,” says KPD spokesperson Darrell DeBusk.

Sometimes, the victim decides not to prosecute and the case falls apart. Other times the victim can't be found at all.

"Some of the incidents involved homeless individuals where they reported being raped and once they reported that they disappear, you can't find them so there's no prosecution,” adds DeBusk.

Knoxville ranks second in the state for the number of untested rape kits. Knox County ranks sixth. Memphis is the highest with nearly 7,000 piling up on police shelves.

University of Tennessee Police Department has just under 20 untested kits. Officials say with any rape case a letter from the DA saying they're going to prosecute is necessary or the TBI will not accept the kit.

KPD also says on average, a rape kit costs about $500 to submit. TBI pays for that, but taxpayers fund the agency through the state.

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