Residents question police investigation

February 19, 2009 4:31:21 PM PST
There are a growing number of questions about how police handled a teenage girl's claim that she was sexually assaulted in a southwest Houston neighborhood nearly two weeks ago. The 13-year-old girl says she was walking near the intersection of Drake near Auden when she says a man grabbed her, forced her into a home that's under construction, and raped her. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The investigation is still in its preliminary stages, according to Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt. As police continue to sort through varying accounts of what may have happened, homeowners tell us they are disturbed by what they call a lack of communication from the department.

Jack Douglas lives next door to the vacant home under construction where a 13-year-old girl claims she was attacked then sexually assaulted. While Douglas says he supports police and the work they do, he is critical of how the department is handling this particular investigation.

"We were at home," he recalled. "Unfortunately, we had the TV running and noises inside, and don't want to comment on having heard or not heard anything until the police contact us, which they have not."

No contact, he says, in the 11 days since the criminal complaint was filed.

Thursday afternoon Chief Hurtt admitted he's not even sure when or how long it took investigators to examine the scene of the alleged crime. We wanted to know if the delay could have caused the crime scene and the evidence to be tainted.

"That's always possible," he said. "If we get there 10 minutes after a crime happened, or an hour, or 10 days, possibly a scene could be tainted."

As the days go by, Douglas, who is actively involved in his homeowners association, says the level of frustration is growing.

"Honestly, we feel that there should be, first, some type of more aggressive investigation being done, and we should be given some kind of guidance," Douglas said.

They want guidance as to what homeowners should be telling their children and what they should be doing as a neighborhood.

Chief Hurtt responded, "That's the first I've heard of that. What I will do is have the people [handling the] investigation go out there and meet with the families and neighbors and have a community meeting and explain to them progress we've made in the investigation and what they need to do on a day to day basis."

Homeowners will welcome that community meeting. Meanwhile, police doing crime analysis in the area say they have not found any similar crimes in recent weeks or months, yet they are still taking the allegations very seriously.

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