MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is still working to speed up the testing of rape kits despite special funding not being included in the state budget.

It’s a loss for rape victims across the state, according to attorney Gary Smith.

“Rapists are not one-off offenders. They’re serial. And the lack of testing and delay in testing allows them to stay on the street and strike again and again and again,” Smith said.

Among the victims is Smith’s client Alicia Franklin. She was raped in September of 2021, but her kit wasn’t processed for a year. In September 2022, the same man who was accused of raping her was arrested for the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher

Smith said if Franklin’s rape kit had been processed in a timely manner, Fletcher might still be alive today. 

“So now here we are with the ability to at least in the future try to solve the problem and get these kits testing and get them tested timely, and yet, the funding for that, such a critical issue, somehow doesn’t find its way into the budget. That is absolutely unforgivable,” Smith said.

Wednesday’s response comes after the state failed to include funding for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to process rape kits within 30 days. But Director David Rausch said the Bureau is still on track to make these changes thanks to other funding. 

“We’re hiring the personnel, and I can tell you, I believe we’re on target to hit that,” Rausch said.

Rausch said they also were given funding to increase the budget to incentivize scientists to work here. 

“Starting in July, we’re going to see a major increase in pay. So that’s going to help us attract great talent, and retention for the scientists we have,” Rausch said.

But some still feel the dismissal of this funding shows a lack of priority for victims of sex crimes, which will keep Smith fighting for victims.

“The city has failed Alicia Franklin. The state has failed Alicia Franklin. The state has failed all of those victims of rape and future victims,” Smith said.

TBI said it has hired about 50 new employees, including dozens of scientists to process rape kits. We’re told the goal is to process the evidence within eight to twelve weeks.