FOX13 Investigates the backlog of untested rape kits in Shelby County

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are thousands of untested rape kits across the state, and some folks are saying it’s going to take more than just a handful of people to bring the TBI up to date.

This has been an ongoing issue in Memphis, where the police department at one point said there was a backlog of more than 12,000 kits.

It was to the point where the police had to check in regularly with the city council to be transparent about the number of kits left, but then, the updates stopped once the Memphis Police Department (MPD) said they were caught up.

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One woman FOX13 spoke to said, unfortunately, it will continue to be a problem until major changes are made.

FOX13 first sat down with Meaghan Ybos back in 2013, more than a decade after she was attacked and raped in her Cordova home as a teenager.

She went on to face the man convicted of raping her and other women and, since then, she’s pushed for laws to get passed across the state to change the way evidence in rape cases is handled by law enforcement.

One of the state legislators on board was representative G.A. Hardaway who represents Memphis.

“I appreciate that we’re finally motivated to another level. I would suggest to you that if we had done so years ago, there would be a lot of women not suffering today,” he said.

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But, he said, it did take this long.

Ybos, now the founder of People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws, sent FOX13 a statement more than 10 years after her case went to trial, saying she was ‘not surprised’ and ‘the city has not undertaken any changes in MPD sex crimes’.

Hardaway agreed that more funding and resources are needed at both the local and state levels but he said it starts with more hires.

“One of the misconceptions, I believe, is that there are personnel in TBI designated to work nothing but rape kits, that’s not the fact,” Hardaway said.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton also chimed in, saying ‘Justice should be swift and firm on these criminals, but this backlog only prolongs the pain for victims.”

Those are victims that Hardaway said could’ve been eliminated if action was taken sooner.

“It’s really no telling how many woman have been needlessly assaulted because we did not have the capacity in TBI to get the evidence, try the rapists, and get him or her off the streets,” said Hardaway.

FOX13 reached out to TBI on Monday to ask exactly how many kits are in the backlog and the media contact said she’d reply once she has an answer.

These 25 new FBI scientists will be spread out across the state, and Sexton said the goal is to shorten that wait time to about 30 days if possible.