September 3, 2014

Elyria
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test

Lorain sends rape kits to BCI

LORAIN — The Lorain Police Department has forwarded 58 old sexual assault test kits to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation as part of a statewide initiative to conduct DNA testing on the kits and build up the state’s database of sex offender data.

Lorain police Sgt. Mark McCoy said the kits submitted by his department date back as far as five or six years, but it’s unlikely the evidence will provide breaks in cases.

“We’re not getting anything back where we’re solving any crimes,” he said.

The sexual assault kits, also known as rape kits, sent to BCI come from cases such as when a victim recanted her testimony and charges weren’t filed or when a suspect acknowledged having consensual sexual contact so there was no need to run a DNA test to prove sexual relations had taken place, McCoy said.

The main idea is to get the DNA profiles in the database, where they can be matched against specimens taken in other cases in which DNA is used.

When he announced the program in December 2011, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a news release that sexual assault kits should be submitted for testing unless it was clear that a crime hadn’t been committed and said the kits should be sent to the bureau no matter how old they were.

DeWine even created a new unit to process the old kits with four forensic scientists working on those kits.

“The new policy is fairly simple: if a crime was committed, the kit should be submitted,” DeWine said in 2011. “If a crime probably occurred, law enforcement should submit the kit for testing. Whether the case is ever prosecuted is a decision down the road. This is a good policy for victims, and it’s a good policy for the law enforcement system.”

According to statistics provided by DeWine’s office this week, since the program began 2,336 old rape kits have been submitted for testing. The Cleveland Police Department submitted 1,073 kits alone.

Of those, 372 tested negative for semen, while 103 tested positive for semen. Those were then submitted for DNA testing and turned up 65 hits in the Combined DNA Index System, better known as CODIS. That information was then forwarded to investigative agencies around the state.

Another 496 kits have tested positive for potential male DNA and are being tested as well, according to the information provided by DeWine’s office. There are still 1,365 kits that haven’t been tested yet.

Besides Lorain police, the only other police agency in Lorain County to forward rape kits for testing was the Oberlin Police Department, which submitted two, according to DeWine’s office.

Oberlin police Lt. Mike McCloskey said the old kits came from cases in which there were no suspects or even police reports. With Jane Doe victims and no suspects, the kits would have limited investigative value, he said.

He said if police have a case where DNA likely will be a factor, investigators don’t wait for years before sending it off.

“Typically, if we have information reported to us and a kit done, we submit it immediately,” he said.
McCoy said Lorain police intend to forward any rape kit they receive on to the the bureau for testing, even if they might have done so in the past.

“We just send along anything now,” he said. “They want everything.”

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.