Over 800 untested rape kit samples found with mold at Austin Police Department

Travis County commissioners  received a briefing on the mold found on APD rape kits in April at a July 6 meeting.

Travis County commissioners received a briefing on the mold found on APD rape kits in April at a July 6 meeting.

UPDATE 5:08 p.m. - Austin Police Department Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said 25 of the 849 untested rape kits found with mold on their exterior are from 2011 and later.

“We have no information at this time that this mold has impacted any of these kits,” Manley told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday.

Manley said “well over 1,000” kits from the same refrigerator were successfully processed, but he remains unsure of the effect on the 849 kits found in a moldy box inside a walk-in refrigerator at the APD’s evidence warehouse. The department has paused all mold-remediation until it receives guidance from forensics experts.

“We’re taking an aggressive stance and making sure we handle this as timely and as appropriately as possible,” Manley said.

 

3:46 p.m. - More than 800 untested rape kit samples were found to have mold growing on them following issues found with the refrigeration system at the Austin Police Department, according to memo sent to the city of Austin mayor and council Monday.

Whether the mold outbreak in the evidence warehouse undermined the integrity of 849 untested rape kit samples has yet to be determined.

“None of the evidence in the refrigerator had been tested and therefore had never been considered as DNA evidence in the deliberation of any case already adjudicated,” Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano said in the memo to mayor and council on Monday.

Surei Scanlon, a spokesperson from APD, was unable to comment on the number of moldy samples that are evidence in pending cases. She said the department is working on a potential press conference to discuss the issue.

According to the memo, APD knew about a mold issue as early as April. Signature Science LLC—a private forensics lab contracting with APD to clear its expansive rape kit backlog—notified APD on April 25 that it found mold on one of the samples received from the police department. The following day APD employees found mold on several boxes holding rape kit samples in the evidence warehouse’s walk-in refrigerator.

An audit found that 849 of the inspected 1,629 rape kit samples had mold on them.

It is unknown whether the mold compromised the rape kit samples, which are from cases “mostly from the 1990s and early 2000s,” according to the memo. However, on June 21, Signature Science informed APD the sample originally found with mold had not been affected.

APD has reached out to forensics experts from across the country for consultation on how to handle the mold issue.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


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