x
Breaking News
More () »

More sexual assault survivors to get closure with Kentucky investigation initiative

The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded grant funding to expand the sexual assault kit initiative in Kentucky.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More funding is headed to the Kentucky State Police (KSP) investigative team's Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI).

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an award of $849,491 in grant funding that will expand the team with an additional investigator focused on Louisville, according to a press release from Governor Andy Beshear's office.

Beshear said every dollar awarded is one step forward in fighting violent crime and sexual assault.

"By expanding the SAKI investigative team and strengthening their important work of helping to identify and hold these offenders accountable, we are creating a better, safer Kentucky,” he said.

The investigative team was formed in July 2021. Since that time, investigators have been able to access information and evidence that was collected at the time of the crime as well as new sources of information to help bring offenders to justice, the release states.

“There will be a final chapter in these cases," KSP Detective Janet Barnett, a SAKI investigator said. “We have found forensic evidence but we don’t know who it comes back to, so we can assist with reviewing the case to see if we can get any leads about who left that forensic evidence.”

Barnett said the majority of the cases they work come from the Jefferson County area, which is why an additional investigator is needed. 

"A lot of agencies, they have these cases and they're doing great work on them, but crime doesn't stop," Barnett said. 

Here's how else the state plans to use the funding:

  • Hire a part-time staff member that will update and retrieve records initially investigated by Louisville Metro Police Department and other agencies.
  • Fund a KSP Forensic Lab to help identify sexual assault kits from the Phase III inventory. These are SAKI-eligible cases from the 1970s to the 1990s.

According to KSP, the state solved its historic test backlog. KSP reports more than 4500 sexual assault kits have been shipped through SAKI-funded initiatives, and tests have led to 715 hits on the CODIS DNA database. 

Researcher Bradley Campbell, an associate professor of criminal justice at UofL, said the state's efforts to test kits and reopen cases have led to a new phase of investigations. 

"Now we're starting to see some of the benefits in terms of arrests," he said.

Campbell said the latest funding will help ongoing work to make Kentucky's justice system more trauma-informed. That work also includes funding for criminal justice training and passage of the 2016 SAFE Act

"Victims are viewed more as a partner in the case and they really can lead where the case goes," he said.

Barnett said since July, the SAKI investigative initiative has been successful. She said it's important to remember why they are putting in the work. 

“Knowing that you could provide closure to so many people who I’m sure at some point thought ‘well this case is going nowhere,'" she said. 

Other stories

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users.

Have a news tip? Email assign@whas11.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.