MEMPHIS, Tenn.– It took less than a day to process the DNA found on a sandal left at the scene where Eliza Fletcher was kidnapped, but the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told lawmakers Thursday that they can’t do that in every case.
“The issue was resources,” said TBI Director David Rausch.
We’ve heard that time and time again from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. It processes evidence for local agencies like Memphis Police.
The TBI’s director told state lawmakers in a special committee meeting it can take several months, if not a year, to process critical evidence from violent crimes except in certain cases.
Despite the long turnaround times, the TBI was able to analyze the DNA on a sandal found at the scene of Eliza Fletcher’s kidnapping in a matter of hours. A scientist at the Jackson lab dropped everything.
“We will always take cases and work them if there’s a request for an immediacy. In this case, there was a case of an individual, a victim we needed to find,” said Rausch. “For 18 straight hours, this scientist didn’t go home. that scientist stayed in the lab for 18 straight hours working this evidence until an identification was made.”
Another case they’ve done that for was the Christmas day bombing in Nashville.
“It’s not something we could do every day,” Rausch said.
The TBI said it also doesn’t choose what takes priority. That’s up to the investigating agency.
There was no priority on Alicia Franklin’s rape kit MPD sent in September 2021. She wants her name out there and it known her evidence sat on a shelf for 8 months.
It took another 2 months to find out the DNA in her kit reportedly matched Fletcher’s accused killer.
The TBI said Thursday MPD didn’t let them know of any possible suspects when they submitted Franklin’s kit. If they had, it may have sped things up.
“Then there’s an opportunity that they need it to make that match and make that arrest quickly,” Rausch said.
MPD won’t comment on the investigation because Franklin is now suing the city. What is clear– the TBI hopes turnaround times will eventually get better.
The assistant director told lawmakers it will tie up personnel and take 18 months to train some of the new hires. Another concern is they need more money to keep them.
“We’re giving them lots of training that’s worth a lot of money, and they’re taking the training and going to other places because we’re not giving them a salary that incentivizes them to stay here and do that job,” said Mike Lyttle with the Forensic Services Division at the TBI Crime Labs.
The TBI also said outsourcing work to private labs would be difficult and costly. They’re out of state and have charged $1,400 per rape kit in the past.
There’s also the issue of people in those private labs testifying in court cases.
The TBI would have to look over their work and plug it into codis.
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