Why 5,396 sexual assault kits went untested in Indiana

(INDYSTAR.com) - There are 5,396 sexual assault kits held in police custody that have not been tested, according to the results of an Indiana State Police audit.

State senators had adopted a resolution in April that urged State Police to count the number of untested sexual assault kits throughout the state and determine reasons why they were not tested.

The report, which was released Friday, provides only a snapshot of the prevalence of untested kits in Indiana. The audit did not determine the total number of sexual assault kits that were collected but never submitted for testing over a particular time period. It only included the number of untested kits that remain in police custody today. Other kits may have been destroyed or lost.

According to the audit, of the 5,396 sexual assault kits that have not been tested:

  • 416 were kits collected on people who have not reported a crime to law enforcement. Police said they cannot test the kit without the survivor's permission.
  • 1,669 were kits identified as "no-crime or false-report kits" that are held in the event prosecutors pursue a false reporting case or until the statute of limitations expires.
  • 751 were attributed to cases that have already gone through the court system but are being held in the event of an appeal or expiration of a statute of limitations on a related crime for which the suspect has not been charged.

State officials said it was not clear why the remaining 2,560 kits had not been submitted for testing. They said they intend to delve deeper into the circumstances surrounding each of those kits to determine which are eligible for testing and submission into CODIS — a system that "enables federal, state and local forensic laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking serial violent crimes to each other and to known offenders," according to the FBI.

David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said there may be valid reasons some of the kits were not tested then and should not be tested now. For example, a suspect may have confessed to the crime and been convicted. Indiana already collects the DNA profiles of convicted felons for submission into CODIS, so Powell said testing a kit in that situation would be a waste of resources.

It costs $750 to $1,250 to test a sexual assault kit.

Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, who authored the resolution to audit untested kits, said he will push for testing of all kits that are eligible.

"Every one that is close to being appropriate for testing should be being submitted to the lab,” he said. “Each one of those kits represents some lady’s life."

Crider said the report also will be used to help develop strategies on handling sexual assault kits in the future.

Each kit represents an individual identified as a victim of sexual assault. The kits contain forensic evidence, such as clothing, fingernail scrapings and swabs from various parts of an individual’s body, gathered through an invasive and intensely personal exam that takes about three hours.

More than 175,000 sexual assault kits nationwide have never been tested, according to "End the Backlog," a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation. A number of victims’ advocates have been pushing for testing of all kits.

Tracey Horth Krueger, CEO of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault, said she is glad they finally have an understanding of the size of the problem of untested kits. She said she hopes they can use this information to better meet the needs of survivors and help them move forward.

"Their justice — however they define justice — they deserve that," Horth Krueger said. "They deserve to be heard. They deserve to be believed."

Call IndyStar reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski at (317) 444-6135. Follow her on Twitter: @IndyMarisaK.

INDYSTAR.com


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