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Springfield Police clears backlog of untested rape kits

The Springfield Police Department has tested every rape kit in its inventory, officials announced Wednesday.

In a partnership with the Attorney General’s Office, Springfield police have tested all of the 231 untested kits it had in February 2019 when the SAFE Kit Initiative, an effort by the attorney general to clear the entire backlog of untested kits in Missouri, launched. The final 15 kits were shipped Wednesday morning, Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a news conference. 

“Today’s a great day in our pursuit of justice for victims of sexual assault,” Schmitt said. 

Schmitt said the Springfield Police Department is the largest in Missouri to achieve the goal of testing all of the rape kits in its inventory. The first batch of untested rape kits sent to the lab through the SAFE Kits Initiative was from that department in January 2020.

“Now that we have cleared our backlog of sexual assault kits, we can move forward in these investigations and help survivors of sexual assault in Springfield seek long-awaited justice,” Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said. “Staff at the Springfield Police Department, specifically those in our Special Victims Unit and Property Room, have worked tirelessly to ensure that this process was handled with meticulous care. I appreciate and recognize their dedication.”

Williams said investigative resources and lab capacity had contributed to the backlog of untested kits, but he had made it a priority to test them all during his tenure as police chief. 

In all, 2,101 kits have been sent away for testing as part of the SAFE Kit Initiative with federal funding covering 1,501 of those. DNA can be found in the kits which is then sent to the Missouri State Highway Patrol and uploaded into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). 

Of those 2,101 kits, 352 contained DNA that was uploaded to CODIS, and 155 matched DNA already in the database. The Attorney General’s Office has made 35 criminal referrals to prosecutors in Missouri thus far. 

Springfield kits have received 11 CODIS hits, and six are currently being investigated. 

More than 600 kits either did not contain a DNA profile or were not eligible for upload because the DNA was from the victim or a consensual partner or was not complete enough. 

Schmitt said he expected those numbers to grow as more kits are tested in labs but stressed the numbers represent real people who have been victimized. 

“While we’ve made great progress so far, we’re not going to stop until we get every single department in the state to zero untested kits in their inventory like we’ve done here in Springfield today — all with the goal of seeking justice for those who have been victimized through these violent and vile acts of terror,” Schmitt said. 

Schmitt praised Sen. Lincoln Hough’s leadership in the General Assembly for securing funding to test the kits. 

“I was glad to partner with Attorney General Schmitt to ensure the resources were available to test all of the rape kits in our area, and I look forward to continuing to work with his office on any and all priorities that keep our communities safe,” Hough told The Missouri Times. 

A 2019 audit found more than 6,100 untested kits throughout Missouri. The state is utilizing multiple private labs in order to test the arsenal of kits. 

“Today is an important day for the victims of these crimes and a milestone on our quest to clear the backlog of untested sexual assault kits once and for all,” Schmitt said.