Travis County officials: APD rape kits not compromised by mold discovered in April

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.

Travis County officials' say their minds are at ease concerning rape kits found with mold on the exterior by the Austin Police Department in April.

On Mon., July 3, Gregg Cox, director of operations for the Travis County District Attorney's Office, said he and his staff took a tour of the department's warehouse.

“The outcome of this visit was to cause us not to be alarmed anymore,” Cox said. “The boxes are not actively growing mold."

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt Judge Sara Eckhardt addressed the public today about the county's concerns regarding the mold found on APD rape kits in April.[/caption]

A report submitted to Austin City Council June 27 by Ray Arellano, assistant city manager, stated APD inspected 1,629 sexual assault kits at the facility and found mold on 849 of them. Most of those boxes were from the 1990s and early 2000s and were unlikely to be prosecuted, said Gregg Cox during today's Travis County Commissioners Court meeting.

Commissioners raised a number of concerns with the issue.

Judge Sarah Eckhardt expressed her concern over the two-month lag between when police discovered the mold and when they informed the DNA stakeholders, especially since meetings between both parties are held every Wednesday. She also worried about how contaminated evidence could affect the outcome of cases going forward.

The county works in partnership with about a dozen different law enforcement agencies, Eckhardt said. Out of all of those agencies, about 80 percent of the cases tried in Travis County come from the APD and those cases rely on the evidence stored at the APD facility.

“Our job is to make sure justice is being served,” Eckhardt said. “Without both sides of evidence that is hard to do.”

Cox said no evidence, thus far, has been compromised as a result of the mold. APD has taken steps to remedy the issue with the installation of a new dehumidifier and has resealed the refrigerator to control humidity.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission is also aware of the issue and has requested additional information from the APD. An update from the APD will be given at the commission's Aug. 18 meeting.