In just over three years, Missouri Attorney General’s Office has made major strides in eliminating the backlog of untested sexual assault kits
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – In a major milestone, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced at a press conference earlier today that the Attorney General’s Office has worked with 169 law enforcement agencies to clear their backlogs of untested, report sexual assault kits. In total, 3,298 untested, reported kits have been sent to the lab to be tested. Further, because of the relentless work of the SAFE Kit Initiative State Coordinator Judge M. Keithley Williams and her team, there are currently three active prosecutions that are a direct result of CODIS hits from kits that were tested through the SAFE Kit Initiative.
“Just over three years ago, I launched the SAFE Kit Initiative with the ultimate goal of clearing the backlog of untested sexual assault kits. Thanks to years of dogged, assiduous work from Judge M. Keithley Williams and her team, we have made unbelievable progress in pursuit of that goal. Today, I’m pleased to announce that 169 law enforcement agencies have completely cleared their backlog of untested, reported sexual assault kits. Further, there are three active prosecutions that are a direct result of CODIS hits because of kits tested through the SAFE Kit Initiative. Not only is this an incredible milestone, but it’s my hope that it sends the message to victims across Missouri that I take this incredibly, personally serious and that my Office will continue our hard work to honor the sacrifice, bravery, and courage it takes to submit to a sexual assault kit,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “While this is a major accomplishment, there is still work to be done. My Office has worked with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to send referrals to prosecutors when CODIS hits are encountered and will continue to do so. I have offered my Office’s expertise and staff to help with the three prosecutions currently underway, and we will continue to make those referrals and seek justice wherever possible.”
Using a 2018 federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s SAKI Program and a $2.6 million appropriation from the Missouri state legislature, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office has sent 3,298 untested, reported sexual assault kits to the lab to be tested, satisfying the conditions of both the federal grant and the state legislature appropriation. Further, as part of a second round of grant funding from the BJA SAKI Program, the Office is currently conducting an updated inventory that covers backlogged kits from 1998 to April 2020. All current sexual assault kits are being handled in normal course through the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab, St. Louis City Crime Lab, St. Louis County Crime Lab, St. Charles County Crime Lab, and the Kansas City Police Department Crime Lab.
Out of the 3,298 untested, reported sexual assault kits sent to four private labs to be tested, 1,312 have been tested and returned. Here’s a breakdown of the results from those kits that have been tested and returned:
- 500 were deemed eligible for CODIS upload. That means that there is a strong enough DNA profile to be eligible for upload into CODIS.
- Of the 500 that were deemed eligible for CODIS upload, there have been 201 CODIS “hits,” amounting to a roughly 40% hit rate.
- 353 were deemed ineligible for CODIS upload. This is because either the DNA profiles are associated with the victim or consensual partners, or the DNA profile returned with inconclusive results that do not meet the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) eligibility standards for CODIS uploads.
- 459 were deemed “negative,” which means that no DNA was found.
CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System, is the FBI’s database for DNA profiles of criminal offenders. When DNA profiles are uploaded to CODIS, the system tracks for “hits,” looking to see if that DNA profile matches that of a previous offender that’s already been uploaded into the system.
Because of CODIS hits, three prosecutions are underway. They are as follows:
- Independence (2216-CR01205): Following a CODIS hit, suspect of a 2015 rape was arrested in mid-March and charged. Independence Police Department was the arresting agency.
- St. Joseph (21BU-CR01471): Following a CODIS hit and subsequent victim interview, suspect in the rape of an 18 year old in St. Joseph was arrested in February 2022 and charged. St. Joseph Police Department was the arresting agency.
- Boone County (21BA-CR04897-01): Following a CODIS hit, suspect who was previously charged in Warrensburg with statutory rape and sodomy was also charged in Boone County for an additional rape. Boone County Sheriff’s Office was the arresting agency.
The Attorney General’s Office conducted 67 shipping events across the state to send those untested, reported kits to the lab to be tested. Shipping events began in 2019 – the first was held at the Springfield Police Department.
Here’s a breakdown of the 169 police departments and sheriff’s offices that have zero untested, reported sexual assault kits in their inventory:
- Northwest Missouri: 16
- Northeast Missouri: 19
- Southwest Missouri: 74
- Southeast Missouri: 48
- St. Louis Metro Area: 6
- Kansas City Metro Area: 6
The Office has been working with the MSHP’s Missouri Information Analysis Center and local prosecutors to continue to make referrals following a CODIS hit.
To ensure that a backlog never occurs again, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office proposed several proactive steps which have already been accomplished, including the creation of a central repository for untested, unreported sexual assault kits and designing a kit-tracking website. Over 2,000 untested, unreported kits have already been delivered to the central repository, and the Attorney General’s Office is working to train law enforcement, hospital staff, victim advocates, and others in the use of the tracking system that’s been developed.