AG's Office hosts sexual assault cold case training in effort to end backlog of untested rape kits

04/11/2017 08:06 PM

LEXINGTON – Attorney General Andy Beshear is hosting a three-day sexual assault cold case training session in Lexington beginning on Tuesday for law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates across the state related to Kentucky’s Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence kit or SAFE kit backlog.

The free training, is hosted by the Prosecutors Advisory Council, the AG’s Office of Victims Advocacy, and the Department of Criminal Investigations.

Beshear said the training will go a long way towards eliminating the backlog of untested rape kits which had reached over 3000 in Kentucky.

“We want to make sure that no matter where those kits go back to, regardless of the police station or ultimately the prosecutor that they reach, that these victims don’t have to wait one minute longer for justice than is necessary,” Beshear said.

The sessions feature local trainers and national experts from the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Training and Technical Assistance (SAKI TTA) and Aequitas: the Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women.

“We want to make sure that every single victim, who’s kit is tested, and there is a CODAS match, it results in an investigation by the best, and that it is prosecuted by the best,” Beshear said. “And to be the best requires the training from the best, which they are getting today.”

Beshear said the sessions are all about changing the rape culture in the commonwealth.

“Number one, we’ve made sure that rape kit backlog never ever happens again, and that started with a four and a half million dollar transfer from my office to the Kentucky State Police Crime lab to hire more people and expand the lab, and they said with that money, there will never be a backlog again, and there never should be,” Beshear said.

One of the trainers for this weeks sessions is retired Phoenix, Arizona law enforcement official Jim Markey, who says that untested rape kits are being discovered in many states around the country.

“It’s a phenomena that’s been going on for about five or six years now when it kind of got exposed through some media attention and Kentucky has done a lot of things that other jurisdictions haven’t done as far as legislation,” Markey said. “I firmly believe that we are going to test all of these sexual assault kits, but what we put in place, how we sustain that effort to make sure that we don’t have this problem again is really important, and I think Kentucky is putting those steps and those measures into place and it’s going to create some standards so we’ll be able to prevent this in the future.”

One person who addressed the training participants on Tuesday was Michelle Kuiper of Louisville, who was victim of a kidnapping and rape in 1994.

It would be 16 years before Kuiper’s assailant would be brought to justice for raping her as well as 2 other women.

“I think he was in and out of jail a dozen times and plead down because they were non sex crimes, but he was finally convicted of a crime in 2010, they swabbed him for his DNA, and while he was awaiting the trial out on bail, they got the hit that matched to all three of us in CODAS,” Kuiper said.

Kuiper believes that by spotlighting the issue of untested rape kits, it will prevent other victims from experiencing the frustration that she experienced in waiting 16 years for justice.

“What they are doing is putting a spotlight on the problem, and whenever we do that, that means that we are never going to be in a backlog again,” Kuiper said.

The Office of the Attorney General is also partnering with the University of Louisville to conduct research to determine the underlying causes of the backlog and prevent its reoccurrence.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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