Michigan state police to test Detroit rape kits


DETROIT - A women's support group has awarded Michigan State Police a federal grant to begin analyzing hundreds of rape kits sitting untested at the Detroit Police crime lab.

The $650,000 grant through the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention & Treatment Board will help police process samples of evidence taken from sexual assault victims and compare those results with the DNA of known offenders.

The rape kits contain semen, hair, and other evidence taken from victims that could contain DNA of their attackers, board Executive Director Debi Cain said.

"Each of these untested kits represents a sexual assault victim who trusted our system to be there for them," Ms. Cain told The Detroit News. "It's no easy thing for a victim to go through testing. But it's devastating for a system you trust to let you down."

She said $150,000 morewill go toward updating old kits or buying new ones.

Michigan State Police took over the Detroit crime lab in September, 2008, after it was determined that firearms cases had been improperly handled.

Detroit Police ordered a review last year after 10,500 untested rape kits were discovered in the crime lab.

Detroit Police 2nd Deputy Chief John Roach said most of the kits were either from cases where the perpetrator confessed, the victim refused to press charges, or the perpetrator was known.

He did not know how many of the 10,500 kits had been reviewed.

Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller, a spokesman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, said the final determination on each rape kit will come from her office.

"It is a legal decision that can only be made by prosecutors interviewing the complainants, reviewing the facts and the evidence on a case by case basis," she said.

The funding, obtained last month, comes from Services, Training, Officers and Prosecutors, a criminal justice grant designated to combat violence against women. But the one-time grant will barely put a dent in the backlog.

State Police have estimated that if one technician had nothing else to do, it would take him or her 58 years to complete the testing of all the kits.