Evidence from more than 6600 rape kits that went untested for years in Houston have turned up 850 hits in the FBI’s nationwide database of DNA profiles

February 24, 2015 2:54 pm

Evidence from more than 6600 rape kits that went untested for years
in Houston have turned up 850 hits in the FBI’s nationwide database of
DNA profiles, marking a major step in the city’s $6 million effort to
address the backlog, officials announced Monday..

Some of DNA dated back nearly three decades. Photo / Thinkstock
Some of DNA dated back nearly three decades. Photo / Thinkstock

Charges have
been filed against 29 people, six of whom have been convicted, since the
city launched an effort in 2013 to test 6663 rape kits – some of which
dated back nearly three decades. Testing was completed in the fall, and
the results have now been uploaded to a database used by investigators
nationwide to compare DNA profiles of possible suspects, Mayor Annise
Parker said.
“This milestone is of special importance to rape
survivors and their families and friends because it means their cases
are receiving the attention they should have years ago,” Parker said at a
conference, where she joined local law enforcement officials to
announce the results.
Police are continuing to review the matches
to see if charges can be filed in other cases. In the cases where
prosecutors have won convictions, defendants have received sentences
ranging from 2 to 45 years in prison.

One case was dismissed after the victim decided not to pursue the case.
Rape
kits include biological samples and physical evidence gathered from
victims that are later processed to see if they match a
suspect’s DNA. Testing results are uploaded to the FBI’s Combined DNA
Index System, or CODIS.
Harris County District Attorney Devon
Anderson said there were some cases where suspects committed other
crimes while rape kits that could have identified them sat untested.
“Now
that the testing of these kits is complete, we know that it’s up to
to finish the job and to seek justice for these victims. The ball is in
our court and we will do our best to put the people who are responsible
for these heinous crimes behind bars for as long as possible,” she said.
Experts
say Houston’s backlog – and similar backlogs in other US cities – are
due in part to the high cost of testing which can run from $500 to $1000
per kit, though advocates argue that the lack of testing signals that
sex crimes haven’t always been law enforcement priorities.
More
than 12,000 kits went untested for years in Memphis, Tennessee, which is
facing a lawsuit from rape victims as it tries to test the kits. In
Detroit, prosecutors discovered more than 11,000 rape kits in an
abandoned police warehouse in 2009, and Cleveland prosecutors have sent
their entire 4,700-kit backlog for testing.
“This is not a
Houston problem. It’s not a Texas problem. It’s a nationwide issue that
built up over years and years,” Parker said.

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