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Seeking DNA evidence, a detective drove a teenage rape victim to Knoxville for an abortion

The McMinn County sheriff said the alleged victim wanted the procedure and her parents consented. He suspended the detective for three days for a policy violation.

ATHENS, Tenn. — A McMinn County detective drove a 17-year-old girl who said she had been raped to an abortion clinic and collected DNA evidence from the procedure to use in the criminal case, the sheriff confirmed to 10News. 

Sheriff Joe Guy said longtime detective Greg Earps used a county cruiser in March to drive the young woman to a Knoxville clinic upon her request. She had her parents' permission to get the procedure, Guy said. 

The case lacked physical evidence after the alleged victim delayed reporting the incident, Guy said. Earps sent tissue from the procedure to the TBI crime lab for DNA analysis to see if it matches the 20-year-old suspect. 

"It was done legally, but I would’ve preferred it to have been done a little bit differently," Guy said. "He was just wanting to catch the bad guy and he let something he maybe should’ve considered pass him by."

The sheriff didn't find out about it until days later and would have told Earps not to use a county car had he known before, he said. Guy added he is morally opposed to abortion and his convictions would not let him be a party to the procedure.

Sex crimes like rape are among the hardest to investigate and can take a toll on detectives, Guy said. Without physical evidence, it can be nearly impossible to obtain a successful conviction—and that can frustrate investigators.

"You've got a victim that their body was violated," Guy said. "We get a little passionate about that."

Detective Earps was reprimanded for failing to properly log transport of a juvenile and failing to properly document evidence transfer, documents show. 

While driving to the abortion clinic, Guy said the young woman disclosed to Earps that the alleged crime actually took place within the city of Athens—and thus could've been referred to a different jurisdiction. Earps, however, "continued with the evidence collection," he said. 

Credit: McMinn Co. Sheriff's Office
McMinn County Sheriff's Office Detective Greg Earps

The sheriff punished Earps with three days without pay for those policy violations and, upon his request, moved him so he no longer will work with underage victims. 

"[He's] never been anything but trustworthy and a very hard worker, very diligent and very passionate about the cases that he works. But periodically we all make a mistake," Guy said. 

He said Earps was out of town and unavailable for an interview. No criminal charges have been filed yet in the case. Records for cases involving juveniles are exempted from release under the Tennessee Open Records Act, Guy said. 

A review of Earps' personnel file shows no other disciplinary action over his 24-year career with the Sheriff's Office. 

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