<strong>"I have hope for justice," Debby Dalhoff says of her struggle to learn who raped her and what happened to her rape kit and other evidence collected at the scene of her assault.&nbsp;</strong>(Karen Pulfer Focht/Special to Daily Memphian)Exclusive

Investigating ‘The Mess': Debby’s Journey

Rape victim’s search for answers leads to grim discovery that evidence may have been destroyed in hundreds of cases

When the Memphis Police Department confirmed in 2013 the discovery of an estimated 12,000 older rape kits, many never tested for DNA, Susanna Parkinson refused to refer to the long-ignored evidence as a “backlog.” Instead, Parkinson, who worked closely with MPD as a longtime sexual assault intervention specialist and victim advocate at the Rape Crisis Center, called it “The Mess” — a collection of haphazardly stored and discarded evidence, poor decisions, missed chances and even wanton indifference to sexual assault. “Some of it was intentional. Some of it was egregious. And some of it was accidental.”

Beginning Monday, the Institute for Public Service Reporting at The University of Memphis, in partnership with The Daily Memphian, reveals the results of its exclusive investigation of “The Mess.”

PART ONE: A determined victim’s own investigation of her violent attack decades ago leads to outrage over police missteps and the discovery that mountains of evidence were destroyed — but no suspect.

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