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Rape kit not tested for 12 years leads to suspect

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A brutal rape of a teenage girl 16 years ago, and crucial evidence in her case sat on a shelf for over a decade. Now DNA testing has led to a suspect who in the meantime found another victim.

We've been telling you about the backlog in testing rape kits for years. This case in particular brings up a burning question: If the evidence would have been tested sooner, would another woman have been victimized?

Roland Ali Westbrooks is already a convicted rapist. But he has just been charged with another attack on a Houston teen that happened in one neighborhood back in 1995.

"I'm upset, and everyone has a right to be upset -- and should be," Sen. John Whitmire said.

Sen. Whitmire said he's upset, learning it's taken Houston police 16 years to link Westbrooks with the teen's rape using DNA evidence the department already had in its possession for years.

"If you're going to have a police department in a civilized society, you've got to solve crimes. Particularly when you have the evidence in your lock box in your station," said Sen. Whitmire.

Court documents show the 16-year-old girl reported the rape back in August 1995. Twelve years later, in 2007, a new officer reviewed the case and found the DNA evidence was never sent to the crime lab.

It took another two years for that officer to learn a DNA profile was found. And in October 2009 that sample was set to the state DPS lab.

In July 2010, the investigating officer learned the DNA sample matched Westbrooks, who was already serving time in prison for a different rape.

The officer sent additional DNA results to the HPD crime lab in February of this year, and it was only last month that police say those lab results linked Westbrooks to the 1995 rape.

Senator Whitmire says had HPD tested the rape kit sooner, it could have stopped Westbrooks from attacking someone else.

"It is wrong. They have over 4,000 rape kits unprocessed at the Houston Police Department. They know it. The public knows it. And it's unacceptable," said Sen. Whitmire.

The crime lab director told us there is currently a team in place to process those thousands of rape kits.

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