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11 sexual assault kits from Hall remain untested after 177 were submitted to state
04252018 GBI

Less than a dozen sexual assault evidence kits from Hall County need to be processed since the 2016 push to analyze these untested kits.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation deputy public affairs director Bahan Rich said 177 kits were submitted from Hall County since the passage of Senate Bill 304 in 2016, which required all Georgia law enforcement agencies to send stored rape kits to the GBI for testing.

Rich said there are only 11 kits from Hall needing to be tested.

“We expect testing of those kits to be completed in the next four months,” Rich said.

The GBI’s crime lab is making progress in a yearslong effort to test thousands of backlogged sexual assault evidence packages, authorities said.

Rape Response Executive Director Jeanne Buffington said her agency is part of a cold case team including law enforcement and judicial stakeholders tasked with “reviewing those (cases) if any hits come back.”

Buffington said she could not comment on any hits, which are DNA matches to someone in a law enforcement database, coming back. Gainesville Police and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office did not return a request for comment about any hits on tested kits.

The agency’s goal is to clear out the old rape kits by the first of next year, allowing it to then concentrate on new criminal cases coming in for analysis.

“We see a light at the end of the tunnel,” GBI Director Vernon Keenan said.

The push to test a backlog of almost 10,000 sexual assault kits began after 1,351 untested rape kits were discovered in storage in 2015 at Grady Memorial Hospital, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Eventually those numbered 2,476 after the 2016 law, which was in addition to the old evidence packages from Grady.

The lab already had more than 5,400 evidence kits from sex crimes prior to 1999 that had not been processed because the technology did not exist at the time, the Atlanta newspaper reported.

Also, the lab was logging in an average of 250 new sexual assault kits each month.

“We’re in this position because the system failed, but I am encouraged we’ve taken action to fix it, and we’re making progress. But it never should have happened in the first place,” said state Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, one of the sponsors of the 2016 legislation.

The backlog has since been cut by more than two-thirds and is now less than 2,900. The GBI has contracted with an outside lab to process the older cases while the state’s 50 scientists and technicians focus on new cases.

“I’m pleased, but when there is still a third outstanding it’s hard to jump up and down with joy,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, one of the sponsors of the legislation that required law enforcement to submit rape kits to the GBI.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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