MT DOJ provides update on backlog of sexual assault test kits - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

MT DOJ provides update on backlog of sexual assault test kits

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MTN News photo. MTN News photo.

Members of the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation gave an update on Monday on an initiative to test a backlog of sexual assault test kits.

Representatives gave a tour of the new storage facility in Helena that will provide centralized storage for the untested kits and also laid out their three-year plan for the initiative.

The Montana Department of Justice reports there are more than 1,400 sexual assault evidence kits that have not been submitted for testing.  The numbers were reported by law enforcement agencies across Montana, dating back to 1995.

As to why kits weren't submitted, reasons include because the victim didn't cooperate, the suspect confessed and was prosecuted, or the evidence gathered during investigations revealed nothing criminal.

Over the next three years a cold case investigator, victim advocate, and law enforcement trainer will be added to the initiative. Division Administrator Bryan Lockerby, a 35-year law enforcement veteran, said that these changes are great first steps.

"This is a fantastic step forward. We’re doing everything from the victim- centered approach to working with cold case investigators to follow up on the latest technology to try to get some of these people taken care of who were victims years ago who felt there were no recourse and just not do anything," he explained. "So hopefully in the next few years, we’re going to see some remarkable successes out of this.”

There are about 1,400 untested kits in Montana. A grant for the national sexual assault kit initiative will pay for about 1,100 of those kits to be tested and the FBI will test the remaining 300 at no additional cost to the state.

The Montana Department of Justice added that by processing the kits they hope to be able to identify previously unknown serial rapists.

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