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Courts and Crime


Local and state authorities are working on backlog of rape evidence
Rape kits up to 20 years old are yielding indictments in Cuyahoga County and statewide
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


Reporter
Kevin Niedermier
 
The state's crime lab is processing thousands of backlogged rape kits under an initiative by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Courtesy of State of Ohio
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Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials are stepping up efforts to process a decades-old backlog of rape evidence. More money and personnel are being allocated, and the state’s crime lab is also gearing up for the increased pace.

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The rape kits contain sexual assault evidence dating as far back as 1993.  Cuyahoga County Council has approved $340,000 to hire three new prosecutors plus several temporary workers to prepare these kits for testing at Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Last October, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine initiated a program to quickly reduce these backlogs across the state. About 4,000 rape kits from Cleveland are expected to be sent to the lab at an estimated rate of 100 a week. The state crime lab has streamlined its testing system and now completes each assessment in about 20 days. That’s 5 times faster than before. And crime lab superintendent Tom Stickrath says they are working to increase that rate as more backlogged rape kits arrive.

“Earlier this year we were doing about 100 a month, now we’re doing about 150 a month. And my goal by the end of September is to be significantly  ahead of that so we can keep getting these back to local law enforcement. We’re now getting hits on one of every 4 of these rape kits we test. So, we don’t always identify back to a known individual, but we are finding serial rapists and we’re solving crime.”

Since the state initiative began, the DNA evidence has led to 50 indictments in unsolved rape case in Cuyahoga County.                                                        

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