May 15, 2012 at 1:00 am

Thousands of rape kits remain untested

Worthy says samples could contain DNA of at-large rapists

Detroit — Officials said the bulk of more than 11,000 rape kits found in a shuttered Detroit Police crime lab in 2009 remain unprocessed and it's anyone's guess when they might be analyzed.

In a recent interview, Michigan State Police labs director John M. Collins said it would likely be a year before the facilities could work on the Detroit kits.

"We never committed to processing all those (Detroit rape) kits," State Police spokeswoman Shannon Banner said.

Banner added the department is working with others to determine ways to handle the rape kits, which she said remain with Detroit Police, not State Police.

The kits — samples of fluids taken from sexual assault victims — were found after State Police took over the Detroit Police crime lab that closed in April 2008.

The kits contain material taken from victims — semen, hair or other samples — that could contain DNA of their attackers.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said 400 randomly selected kits were removed for testing in 2010 under "The 400 Project," leaving 10,903 kits that may need to be tested.

Worthy said the kits may hold potential links to thousands of unknown rapists still at large.

"A delay in testing kits means delay in obtaining justice for the thousands of women who underwent a lengthy and physically invasive evidence collection process in the hopes that their assailants would be identified and held responsible," Worthy told The News this past week.

"It also jeopardizes public safety in that it gives unidentified rapists the opportunity to re-offend with impunity."

Worthy said it must still be determined how many untested kits exist from the stockpile.

"But we do not know if those kits were, in fact, ever tested and, if tested, whether that testing included DNA analysis as opposed to simply serology," she said. "Thus, the best we can say right now is that there are anywhere from 7,403 to 10,903 kits that remain untested in Detroit."

Serology tests are done on unidentified stains gathered at the scene of sex assaults, burglaries, homicides, assaults and robberies.

Suspected blood stains, for example, need to be analyzed to see if they are human or animal.

Worthy said the best alternative to waiting for the State Police is to outsource the testing to accredited laboratories that can handle the volume of kits that need to be analyzed, at a cost of about $1,500 per rape kit.

By those estimates, that would cost $11.1 million to $16.4 million.

mmartindale@detnews.com

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