HPD's crime lab still has major rape kit backlog

November 8, 2010 3:45:47 PM PST
A family is in mourning after a brutal attack. A woman beaten, possibly sexually assaulted, and her family says police are sitting on evidence that could lead to her attacker. The attack happened back in August just southeast of downtown. The victim was beaten severely, and her family believes she was also raped. But getting any kind of test results has not been easy.

The victims family knows there's a backlog of cases at HPD, but they find it hard to understand why it has been three months since the crime and no results from the rape kit test.

For Candy Massoud, there has been no relief.

"I'm so frustrated; I'm so angry that there's nothing I can do," she said.

Massoud's sister, Laura Harris, died over two months ago on September 7 from a drug overdose, according to the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office. It's a direct result, says Massoud, from a vicious beating and rape of Harris in August at their warehouse home just south of downtown.

In the three months that passed, Harris' rape kit test that was taken while she was treated at Ben Taub General Hospital has not been processed.

"This is a problem that needs to be addressed," Massoud said. "This puts every woman who lives in our city at risk, because this guy is now out there and who knows how many other women he's attacking."

Massoud says her fears are the result of a massive backlog of cases at the Houston Police Department.

By HPD's own admissions, there are 1,000 current DNA cases waiting to be processed and another 500 unidentified cases waiting to be evaluated for the presence of blood and semen. There are also 4,000 old rape kits in the property room; many are from the 90s that still need to be processed.

HPD tells us the goal is 30 days for DNA testing. That has not happened in Harris' case.

HPD's crime lab has new robotic equipment to help with samples in new cases and a staff of 20 technicians. Despite the effort to clean up crime lab problems, the Houston Area Women's Center says the backlog creates despair among victims when they learn this unsettling statistic.

"Perpetrators of sexual assault typically have eight victims on average before they get caught," said Leticia Manano with the Houston Area Women's Center.

On Monday, Houston police issued the following statement:

"The Houston Police Department places the highest priority on working violent crimes. This case was complicated by conflicting statements from the complainant, including a belief that she was not sexually assaulted."

However, the department says it expects to get the DNA test results for this case within the next couple of weeks and that the case has been assigned to a criminologist within the lab.


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