Governor Bill Lee addresses TN rape kit backlog

Earlier this month a Memphis woman, Eliza Fletcher,  was kidnapped and murdered on her morning jog. Cleotha Abston Henderson is the man accused of the brutal attack.

Police discovered Henderson was also linked to a rape case in 2021 by state forensic scientists.

This begs the question, just how many rape kits are left untested and how many predators are left on the streets because of it?

In response to nationwide criticism about Fletcher’s case, Governor Lee announced funding  for the TBI to add 25 new lab workers

State Representative Bo Watson is hopeful this funding will allow for faster prosecutions 

“The TBI lab to process their rape kits fast enough to allow for the appropriate rapid prosecution of criminals. There has been a backlog of rape kits for a number of years and while we’ve continued to invest, we just haven’t been able to make a big enough dent in that backlog,” said Watson

The Carmen Hutson with The Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults said there is a fairly recent system that allows survivors to track where their rape kits are in the system. 

“So basically it’s a system that survivors can track their exams. So what happens is once they come to the rape crisis center for the forensic medical exam, they are given a tracking number and that tracking number can be used to follow where the rape kid is in the system. So, for us, we notify law enforcement within 24 hours that a rape kit has been completed,” said Hutson.

The Partnership is available to talk 24/7. The organization will provide rape kits and arrange for them to be held until the survivor is ready to press charges. 

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