Sexual Assault Evidence Stored in Mildewed Refrigerator

Very disturbing new details in the investigation of wrongdoing at the Troup Police Department. Evidence taken from reported sexual assault victims -- hair and bodily fluids -- sat in a refrigerator filled with mold, mildew, and uneaten food, according to the Smith County District Attorney. Some of that forensic evidence appears to have never been taken to a crime lab.

"It just infuriates me when people put the badge on their shirt and use it for the wrong purpose," says District Attorney Matt Bingham.

Just what did happen at the Troup Police Department?  After the arrest of the chief and an officer, more is coming to light -- more that is sometimes hard to believe.

"Anytime you see a sexual assault [evidence collection kit] that is just sitting there, as it's been described to me, in refrigerator that is molded, mildewed, and stinks with uneaten food, is horrific," Bingham says.

Bingham reports anywhere from three to five sexual assault kits were found at the police department.  They're boxes containing swabs of evidence that could hold the key to the conviction of a rapist.

"If it goes to trial, it would be admitted into evidence. If it has been part of a plea deal, it [should] been destroyed.  It wouldn't just be sitting around."

But they were sitting around.  Now, investigators who had been looking into cases involving tampering with evidence or bribery now deal with evidence that seems to have been ignored, by accident, or perhaps on purpose.

"I think there are cases that we have not received, where the statute of limitations could have expired, where it was never presented to us. In other words, we never knew [the case] even happened," Bingham says.

Bingham hopes the physical evidence hasn't been ruined, and he hopes those who were brave enough to report terrible crimes that may never have been pursued by Troup Police will come forward.

Hopefully it's not too late.

"I believe, in my opinion, that there are cases out there -- based on what I know -- that there will be victims that will never receive justice in their cases," Bingham said.

Just how many cases might have fallen through the cracks in Troup is not known, but we decided to make a comparison of how many cases were prosecuted in Troup to cases from nearby Bullard.

From January 2000 to February of this year, Troup Police presented to the D.A. a total of 268 cases for prosecution.  In the same time, Bullard police presented 477.  Bullard is a smaller city with a smaller police force.

The D.A.'s office would like to hear from you if you were a victim of a crime or even a defendant who feels your case was mishandled. You can call the District Attorney's office at (903) 535-0520.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.