Turnaround for rape kit tests raises concerns

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said its Jackson Crime Lab’s average turnaround time for sexual assault kits ranged from 33 to 49 weeks between September 2021 and August of this year.

That’s raising questions about why it takes so long to return rape kit tests.

Memphis Mayor Jim Stickland said he’s now looking into it.

“Six months is too long, but 11 months is just way too long,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

But that’s how long it took for the state to test the DNA from a kidnapping and rape kit from September 2021.

Investigators said it led them to Cleotha Henderson, the same man charged with the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Henderson earlier this month.

“I do not know what kind of bonds are usually set in these kinds of cases, but either way the test results need to come back much quicker than that,”  said Strickland.

According to the TBI, the Memphis Police Department submitted a sexual assault kit on September 23, 2021, and the evidence was put into the queue of unknown assailant kits.

It was one of 316 sexual assault requests from law enforcement agencies in Shelby County to the TIB lab in 2021.

“They all should be returned within 60 days or something. There ought to be a reasonable time we get these test results back,” said Strickland.

But that’s not the only issue that has Mayor Strickland frustrated.

After a teenager was shot near Park and Getwell and later found on I-240 last week, Strickland said we need more officers in Memphis and surrounding areas.

“We want more highway patrol officers. The state operates and maintains the interstate. They got to patrol the interstates. We are short of officers in the city. We want the state highway patrol to take over the interstate,” said Strickland.

Strickland said 13 state troopers are assigned to the city, but they were expecting to have at least 20.

He said we need every single one of them to keep the community safe after the tragic events we’ve had the past couple of weeks.