AG Hawley to investigate MO rape kit backlog, local officials react
SOUTHEAST MISSOURI (KFVS) - Missouri's attorney general says his office will audit a reported backlog of the state's unprocessed rape kits.
Attorney General Josh Hawley's office says according to national statistics, one in six women will face an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime.
"Rape kits provide a powerful tool for identifying and prosecuting potential sex criminals. But both in Missouri and across the country, thousands of rape kits go untested, hamstringing law enforcement efforts to prosecute offenders," Hawley said. "Every rape kit that goes untested means a rapist who remains on the streets, able to attack again, and a survivor who is denied justice. This is unacceptable. Our investigation will determine the scope of the problem in Missouri, the agencies responsible, and the ways we can implement reform."
Local officials say ending the backlog is an excellent idea, but it may not be as easy as it seems.
"It takes a long time to get anything back from the crime lab in Missouri," said Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver
Oliver says when it takes months for results it can be hard for victims, and harmful to their case.
"They're going through these depositions and really being re-victimized,"Oliver said. "If we had that DNA evidence many of them would plead guilty, because that makes some of these cases slam dunk cases."
But Oliver says sometimes it could take up to 8 months to get results.
In Sikeston, Sergeant Jon Broom says they don't have long waits, but you never know who's on the street.
"We may have made an arrest in a case, and have submitted a DNA sample, and there could be a sexual assault kit or DNA evidence that's sitting in a crime lab or a police station somewhere that's not been submitted," Sergeant Broom said.
Oliver says - it's not an easy problem to solve.
"I think it's going to take funding, and I think that you can say we're going to end the backlog of rape kits, but you're taking those analysts off something else," Oliver said.
However, both believe it needs to be done.
"It would make our state safer in the fact that we would be able to take people off the streets that are committing sexual assaults and serious felonies, and things like that," Sergeant Broom said.
"If you can't get rape kits done in a timely manner what can you get done in a timely manner? That's one of the most important pieces of evidence that they need to get done," Oliver said.
Hawley says his office will be doing audits to find out where the backups are in the state, but did not give a time line on when it would be completed.
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