JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s Attorney General has appointed a former trial judge and treatment court administrator to lead the effort to eliminate the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
General Eric Schmitt announced on Wednesday that Judge M. Keithley Williams, a former trial judge in Jasper County and treatment court administrator in the City of St. Louis, will lead the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
Made possible by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Williams will work with law enforcement agencies to clear out the backlog of untested sexual assault kits, bring peace of mind to victims, and assist law enforcement in bringing those responsible to justice.
“This is a vital initiative that I am honored to lead,” said Williams.
“The citizens of this state will be well served by Judge Williams, who has over 40 years of experience working with law enforcement, as she spearheads this important statewide project,” said Schmitt. “Her experience as a trial judge and treatment court administrator make her more than qualified to lead this charge. Law enforcement work thanklessly every day to prevent and investigate crime, and I look forward to working together to augment their efforts to examine these untested kits and work toward justice for victims of sexual assault.”
The current attorney general noted that reporting a sexual assault is incredibly difficult, a decision that takes a tremendous amount of bravery. Schmitt said that victims should have the peace of mind of knowing that when they come forward to report such a heinous crime they will be taken seriously and their sexual assault kit will be examined.
“Tragically, thousands of sexual assault kits remain untested in Missouri, therefore offenders go undetected and unpunished,” said Schmitt.
There are currently thousands of untested rape kits waiting to be examined in the state of Missouri. According to a press release, the first step of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is to begin the process of logging untested sexual assault kits.
Williams said that within six months, thee will complete a detailed inventory of sexual assault kits with police departments and hospitals in Missouri. Then they will tackle forensic DNA testing and the development of an electronic tracking system required by law.
“Working together with law enforcement, health care professionals, victim advocates and concerned citizens, we will seek justice for all those who have been victimized,” said Williams.
“Sexual assault and rape are serious, heinous criminal offenses. Survivors of sexual assault deserve the most current trauma-informed approach to ensure victim safety and offender accountability,” Sergeant Andy Muscato, Supervisor of the Special Victims Unit for the Columbia Police Department, stated. “The Columbia Police Department looks forward to working with Judge Williams in this initiative.”
Amy Fite, Christian County Prosecutor, also added, “For the cases where there is the possibility of forensic evidence exists, I applaud Attorney General Schmitt’s effort to eliminate the backlog of untested sexual assault kits so we can help bring justice to victims and families.”
“We’re looking forward to continuing a partnership with the Attorney General’s Office to address untested kits and build a strong infrastructure for sexual assault response across Missouri,” Jennifer Carter Dochler, Public Policy Director at the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, added.
Schmitt said that he also communicated with various law enforcement agencies in counties across the state announcing the initiative and asking for their cooperation.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.