The backlog of untested rape kits in Kentucky has grown larger than the initial 3,000 discovered in 2015.
While testing is complete on the original backlog, officials uncovered 1,500 so-called “boomerang kits”.
Those are rape kits sent to the crime lab, not tested for various reasons, and then returned to law enforcement agencies.
The state recently received a nearly $3 million federal grant to test those kits from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Gretchen Hunt heads the Office of Victims Advocacy in the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office. She said Kentucky’s special challenge is testing statewide.
“Many other jurisdictions, such as Houston, Detroit, Atlanta, have been awarded these grants more on a city jurisdiction, which is a little easier to manage. We’re trying to the do this work from Whitesburg to Paducah.”
The grant allows the state attorney general’s office to establish a sexual assault cold case unit that will help reopen cases. She says some of the cases date back to the 1970s. A cold case sexual assault team will include a prosecutor, detective, and a victim’s advocate.
“The challenge, I think, becomes in locating the victims and the witnesses, and making sure that they still want to engage in the process, and feel able to—for example—sit down with a detective and maybe be re-interviewed. You know, engage in a process that still may take a couple of years.”
Charges can be brought in any of the cases since Kentucky has no statute of limitations on felony sex crimes. Hunt said there have already been two indictments in the outdated cases, one in Louisville and another in Bowling Green.