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State officials say rape kit backlog almost cleared

Washtenaw County Prosecutor's office

Officials say a backlog of more than 11,000 untested rape kits found in an abandoned Detroit crime lab is almost cleared. In some instances, the cases go back more than three decades. But, some victims will still have to wait years for justice.

The untested rape kits were discovered six years ago. A combined state, local and private sector effort was launched to clear the backlog.          

“The work isn’t done,” said Gov. Rick Snyder, “but this is a huge milestone in terms of making positive progress.”

“It’s nice to have them all tested but it doesn’t bring justice to any victim unless we investigate them the way they should have been investigated in the first place and prosecute them, as well,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

But she says that will take years. In some cases, key witnesses – and victims – have disappeared.

But Michigan State Police Col. Kriste Etue says the testing is already yielding results.

“To date, we have received 2,616 associations in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System,” she said. “These associations have included links to criminal cases in 35 states and the District of Columbia.”

But officials say investigating and prosecuting those cases will take more money. Worthy is working with private foundations to raise $10 million to hire more investigators and prosecutors devoted to wrapping up as many of the unsolved cases as possible.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.