Fayetteville police: Better handling of rape kits needed
Posted September 21, 2015
Updated September 22, 2015
Fayetteville, N.C. — Police said Monday that they are changing their policies after learning that hundreds of rape kits from closed cases were destroyed to free up space in the Fayetteville Police Department evidence room.
According to a police department audit, 333 of the sexual assault kits collected between 1995 and 2008 were destroyed. Chief Harold Medlock ordered the audit in June when a new Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit found that some old evidence was still at the department while other evidence has been disposed of.
Of those 333 cases, 167 were determined to be unfounded, while 52 others resulted in an arrest. The remaining cases were unsolved.
Officials said investigators would reach out to victims and families to let them know of the destroyed evidence and plan to reopen cases they feel may be solved without DNA.
Although no laws were broken, police called the destruction "poor procedure."
Every sexual assault kit collected after Dec. 17, 2008, is accounted for in evidence, except those retained by the court and those released to another law enforcement agency, police said. The department has instituted a tracking system with 2015 sexual assault kits and will eventually add all older kits still in evidence, police said, and detectives will complete a case history and analysis form to aid with the tracking.
The department also is using a U.S. Department of Justice grant to help pay for DNA testing of older rape kits. The Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit is reviewing hundreds of old cases dating to the 1980s, and this effort has already resulted in evidence from 16 unsolved sex assault cases being sent to the State Crime Lab for testing.
Anyone with information concerning a sexual assault case more than five years old is asked to contact Detective J. Benazzi with the Fayetteville Police Department at 910-257-3668 or Crime Stoppers at 910-483-8477.