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Former detective explains why criminal lab backlog causes delays in cases

Posted at 5:46 PM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 18:47:00-05

Fort Hood soldier Cory Grafton was arrested in connection to a Killeen homicide that took the life of 32-year-old Chelsea Lynell Cheatham.

The 20-year-old is in KPD custody after a witness put him at the scene with DNA evidence confirming that testimony.

On June 3rd of 2019 first responders tried to save Chelsea Cheatham who was found unconscious at hotel in Killeen, but those lifesaving efforts weren't enough.

Though law enforcement has not released how she died, an autopsy ruled her death a homicide.

She was also a victim of a sexual assault.

DNA and forensic evidence were sent off to the crime lab for analysis. It was an almost year and a half long wait now over. But why is the wait so long?

“Because every single case has to be processed in a very methodical manner to ensure that there are no errors on the scientific end and that takes a certain process and that process takes time and there are no short cuts. The state labs are very backed up and they have a long backlog. So, if I send in a kit today, it’s not uncommon that it would take 6 months to a year before I get those results back," said Dr. Tammy Bracewell.

With 17 years in law enforcement and now a professor of criminal Justice at A&M Central Texas, Dr. Bracewell explains due to the lack of resources, backlogs across all case types are common. It's something she has experienced firsthand.

“So, at one point in time I had over 100 cases they were all sexual assaults or crimes against children assigned to me," she said. "It was at no fault of anyone else, it was through no fault of the supervisor; it was through no fault of any other investigator.”

Bracewell says each case has to be analyzed, checked and rechecked again especially when dealing with DNA evidence. The revolving door of homicides, murders, sexual assault cases only makes the problem worse.

“Even if you have 25 sexual assault cases there is no way that you can work all 25 adequately. And as soon as you clear on, more come so you are never on top of them,” said Bracewell.

Having closed many cases herself, Dr. Bracewell said though the work is tiresome, it’s rewarding especially when cases like this end in someone behind bars.

KPD sent a special thanks to the Texas Rangers and their Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Program, which was one of the driving forces behind this case finally getting someone behind bars.

25 News did reach out to Ft. Hood for comment but as of news time we haven't heard anything back.