Va. to begin testing long-ignored sex assault evidence kits

WASHINGTON — The wheels of justice often turn slowly — for some sexual assault victims in Virginia, the wheels stopped completely.

Next week, Virginia will finally begin processing a backlog of more than 2,000 physical evidence recovery kits — or PERKs — which have remained on the shelves of local law enforcement agencies. Some untested kits across the state date back to 1988.

“These kits contain evidence of sexual assault,” says Attorney General Mark Herring, “It’s really important that all of these kits get tested.”

In September, Herring secured a $1.4 million grant to have a private lab, Lorton-based Bode Cellmark Forensics, process the backlogged kits.

The lab will work in conjunction with Virginia’s Department of Forensic Services, which has for years struggled to keep up with its workload.

“The results will be entered into a DNA database, and it can really help us identify additional crimes that might have been committed by known perpetrators,” and can also link cases in which police don’t have a suspect’s name to pair with recovered DNA evidence, says Herring.

Fairfax County and Virginia Beach will be the first two jurisdictions to provide their untested kits to Bode Cellmark, since the larger jurisdictions have the most untested kits.  Eventually,  kits from 65 law enforcement agencies will be tested.

Herring says testing will begin next week, and agencies would be notified of any matches within six-eight weeks.

“No victim of sexual assault should have to feel like their attacker is still out there, who could attack them again, or attack someone else,” says Herring.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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