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Attorney General Announces First Phase Completion In Backlog Of Rape Kits.

31 March 2019 News

Attorney General Mark R. Herring has announced the completion of the first phase of his ongoing project to eliminate Virginia’s rape kit backlog. Testing has been completed on nearly 1,800 previously untested rape kits collected prior to 2014 and held by Virginia law enforcement agencies, including kits that had gone untested for decades. The testing is part of Attorney General Herring’s $3.4 million project, in conjunction with the Department of Forensic Science and local law enforcement, to completely eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits, and to transform the way Virginia responds to sexual violence.

As a result of the elimination of the pre-2014 untested kit backlog:

  • 1,770 kits have been tested
  • 568 DNA profiles have been uploaded into CODIS, the national Combined DNA Index System
  • 239 “hits” have been sent to law enforcement agencies for further investigation, including 144 “confirmatory hits” that confirmed the identity of a previously known suspect, and 56 hits in cases that had been previously cleared by arrest
  • At least 58 cases have been reopened for investigation or are currently under review for potential reopening

The untested kit backlog broken down by county, includes 45 tested kits from Winchester, 2 from Warren county, 3 from Front Royal, 4 from Berryville, and 1 from Clarke County.

Testing of the pre-2014 backlog of physical evidence recovery kits was supported by a $1.4 million grant secured in 2015 by Attorney General Herring and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (DFS). As part of this process, Attorney General Herring, DFS, and a steering committee of law enforcement, prosecutors, healthcare providers, and victim advocates created and executed a plan to safely transport thousands of untested kits to a private lab for testing in a way that preserved the integrity of the evidence for use in future criminal cases. Once testing was completed, developed DNA profiles were sent to DFS for review and uploading into CODIS, and DFS reported any hits back to local agencies for further investigation. This process remains ongoing as agencies re-review cases in light of this new DNA evidence and as additional hits occur and are reported.

Testing continues on kits collected between 2014 and 2016 using a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI.) Over 760 such kits have been sent to a private lab for testing and approximately 335 have been tested to date. It is estimated that more than 1,000 kits will eventually be tested during this phase of the project, which when completed, will signal the complete elimination of Virginia’s pre-2016 rape kit backlog.

In 2016, Virginia law was changed to require nearly all kits be tested without delay, meaning that once the backlog of untested kits is eliminated it should never return.

In addition to fully eliminating the backlog of pre-2016 untested rape kits, Attorney General Herring has also led efforts to invest in training and infrastructure that will ensure a more survivor-centered, trauma-informed response to sexual violence by Virginia law enforcement agencies.

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