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Image of the Virginia AG Seal

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

TESTING COMPLETED ON PRE-2014 BACKLOG OF UNTESTED RAPE KITS

~ Nearly 1,800 kits collected prior to 2014 have been tested, more than 560 new profiles have been added to the national DNA database, and more than 230 “hits” have been sent back to localities for review ~

RICHMOND (March 27, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today 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

 

“This project has been a real catalyst for significant changes in the way sexual violence is investigated and prosecuted in Virginia, and the way that survivors are treated when they come forward,” said Attorney General Herring. “This testing has helped expand our ability to identify and prosecute perpetrators, and our investments in training, infrastructure, and organization are making trauma-informed, survivor-centered practices the new norm. We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us, and it will still take some time for law enforcement to reexamine all the cases that now have new evidence, but I’m really encouraged by the progress we’ve made and all the support we’ve gotten from survivors, victims’ advocates, healthcare providers, lawmakers, and our law enforcement partners.”

 

Testing of the pre-2014 backlog of physical evidence recovery kits (also known as PERKs or rape 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.

 

“We have appreciated our collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General to receive these grant funds,” said DFS Director Linda Jackson. “The funds have allowed our dedicated scientists to work overtime to perform their data reviews on the private laboratory results and CODIS searches without impacting the analysis of current cases.”

 

“The testing of these older kits will provide information and closure to survivors of sexual assault,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “I commend Attorney General Herring and the Department of Forensic Science for their efforts to pursue justice though this initiative.”

 

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 PERKs 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.

 

The SAKI Grant funding secured by Attorney General Herring has allowed DFS to develop a new statewide PERK Tracking System, which will be used by DFS, local agencies, hospitals, and other stakeholders as appropriate. The PERK Tracking System will allow DFS to monitor statewide compliance with the comprehensive PERK legislation. 

 

Attorney General Herring and his team have, and will continue to, host trainings and provide support for law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim advocates across the Commonwealth on trauma-informed, survivor-centered techniques for handling sexual assault cases, overcoming the unique challenges of investigating and prosecuting sexual violence cases, and the best way to reinvestigate cold cases.

 

A breakdown of the kits by locality can be found here.

 

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