13 Investigates: Rape victim hopes new Houston police chief won't 'turn his back on us'

Friday, May 10, 2024
Rape victim hopes new Houston police chief won't 'turn his back on us'
As the Houston Police Department announces a new top leader amid the suspended cases scandal, 13 Investigates puts the focus back on victims.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Trina was staying the night at a friend's house in 2020 when she woke up in the early morning hours to find her friend's boyfriend naked and on top of her.

"I immediately got him off of me, fought him off of me, told him to get off me," Trina told 13 Investigates.

After hiding in the bathroom, Trina said she was eventually able to sneak out of the apartment and run for help.

"I remember grabbing some shorts, and I had my sports bra on. I went walking to a friend's house that I knew that lived around the corner, just in shock, like calling somebody to come get me. A pedestrian saw me walking half-dressed, and she just asked me, can she take me somewhere," Trina said.

Still scared and in shock, Trina said she went to the hospital that same day, where she had a rape kit done and met with police.

She said she called them once after that for an update but didn't hear from them again until years later when her case was identified as one of 264,000 incidents dating back to 2016 marked by the Houston Police Department with an "SL" code.

The code suspended cases due to a lack of personnel, which prompted an internal affairs investigation into it.

"I don't understand how it is a code. If you don't have enough investigators, just get some. Every case is serious; whether it's one or a million, everyone counts. No one should be forgotten," Trina said. "Everything is just unreal to me. I can't even believe they were doing all this."

13 Investigates contacted Trina after seeing her case listed in recent emails between HPD and the Houston Forensic Science Center.

Those emails show that DNA collected from Trina the night of the incident produced a hit to the DNA of a known felon who was arrested by the FBI in 2016 on a weapons charge.

ABC13 shared that man's name with Trina, and she confirmed it's the man she accused of rape. 13 Investigates isn't identifying him since he hasn't been charged in this case.

Trina said she was in disbelief when she learned that her incident and thousands of others were suspended due to a lack of staff.

"People need justice. We're out here hurting. We trusted you. Like, how could you just walk away? This is how I feel, like, forgotten about," she said. "I just want everybody to get justice. And I'm praying for everybody because it is a hard situation."

Since news of the suspended cases became public in February, HPD said its internal affairs investigation is looking into how cases like Trina's were able to be marked with the SL code.

On Tuesday, 13 Investigates reported on concerns about the timeline of when HPD leaders first learned about the suspended cases.

On Tuesday night, Mayor John Whitmire sent a letter to HPD staff, saying he accepted now-former HPD Chief Troy Finner's retirement.

Whitmire said the internal affairs investigation became a distraction and hurt morale at HPD.

"You've got to have a police department that is back to crime fighting, response time, recruiting," Whitmire said. "You think recruiting hadn't been impacted by the activities that we're describing? I want people to get back to doing police work and get out of the press."

In a statement on Wednesday, Finner said the last few months were both challenging and rewarding.

"It was painful because some victims of violent crime did not receive the quality of care and service they deserved. But, it was also beneficial because we implemented measures to ensure this never happens again. Our department and our profession will be better because of it," Finner said.

Whitmire named longtime HPD veteran Larry Satterwhite as acting police chief.

On Wednesday, Satterwhite vowed that HPD would do everything possible to help victims reach a resolution.

"They're the ones that matter the most. They're the ones we owe everything to," Satterwhite said. "I mean, 260,000-plus cases is massive because that didn't stop everything that's still happening every day in the City of Houston. It's a big city, and a lot of things are happening, and we have a lot of bad actors out there that are doing bad things, and we need to bring them to justice too. So we have to do both."

After years of feeling like her case was forgotten, Trina said the new police chief will have to earn her trust.

"I just hope he stays on it," Trina said. "Don't turn his back on us. You got to make me a believer now, though."

HPD is asking victims whose contact information has changed since the time of their report to call (713) 308-1180 or email specialvictimsreport@houstonpolice.org.

For updates on this story, follow Kevin Ozebek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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