Backlogged rape kits in Detroit head for further investigation

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 02, 2015 4:55 PM

By Serena Maria Daniels

DETROIT (Reuters) - Most of the 11,000 rape-evidence kits left languishing in a Detroit warehouse have been analyzed since they turned up several years ago, with DNA matches leading to further investigation in 35 states, Michigan's governor said on Wednesday.

The rape kits, which were found abandoned on a storage shelf in 2009, contain DNA samples from hair and swabs of bodily fluids recovered from victims. Since their discovery, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has lobbied to get the stockpiled kits processed.

Governor Rick Snyder secured supplemental funding in 2013 to pay for laboratory analysis of the evidence from 8,000 kits, after the first 2,000 were initially processed by state police.

The state legislature has approved an additional $7 million to assist the state Attorney General's Office in prosecuting accused offenders identified by the testing.

“Survivors of sexual assault crimes deserve swift justice, and we will continue working to make sure a stockpile of this nature never again occurs in Michigan,” Snyder said in a written statement.

In all, a backlog of 10,087 sexual assault evidence kits from the Detroit Police Department have been tested, with about 1,200 of the packages found in storage still to be processed, Wayne County prosecutors said.

So far, 2,616 possible matches have been found in the FBI’s DNA index system, including links to either criminal cases or individuals in 35 states plus the District of Columbia, according to prosecutors.

The renewed testing has led to 23 convictions as of Aug. 27, and 106 additional cases are under active investigation, prosecutors said.

Snyder signed legislation in 2014 that would set new standards for prompt analysis of rape evidence kits statewide.

(Reporting by Serena Maria Daniels; Editing Steve Gorman and Eric Beech)