AUSTIN - Experts said at a hearing Thursday they're "not alarmed" by apparent mold on hundreds of sexual assault kits in Austin Police Department custody.
As they presented that information at the Travis County Commissioner's court, they even went so far as to say it may not even be mold. The panel -- comprised of officials from APD, the Capital Area Private Defender Service, the Travis County District Attorney's Office and an independent expert from the University of North Texas Health Science Center -- said the substance found could just be dust. The panel presented photos of their finding during the hearing.
In the following photo, the black dust is the apparent mold:
Some were in better condition than others:
Some of the boxes were severely damaged and discolored:
For the kit you see above, the case had already resulted in a conviction in 1998 -- separate from the kit.
A private lab testing some of APD's backlogged kits first raised the flag about potential mold on one of the kits they received back in the spring. Upon assessing the problem, APD noted that, of about 1600 kits, almost 850 of them had the mold-like substance.
And after the most recent assessment, officials are no longer alarmed.
"One thing I want to make clear is nobody actually tested to see if it's mold," said Greg Cox of the Travis County District Attorney's Office. "Dr. Bideli said it could just be dust on some of those boxes."
APD has now installed a humidifier and sealed the fridge where the kits are housed as they await testing. The department has also begun a remediation program to clean the outside of the affected kits. Most of the affected kits are from cases before 2011 and were never going to be used for convictions.
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