New Grants Allow Arizona Rape Kits to Be Processed

Law enforcement agencies have been processing more backlogged rape kits, and, since 2016, the investigations have led to seven convictions in Phoenix.

The policy to blame for the backlog was a policy that only required testing of rape kits if the suspect was unknown. Because of this, suspect DNA wasn’t entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Now the rape kits are matching previously known suspects to other cases.

“When their DNA is put into CODIS, it is matching up to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“So now you don’t have a victim standing alone. For example, you may have two or more victims that have matched up through DNA.”

According statistics, the county submitted to investigate 93 percent of the backlog, and 82% has been finished.

“Now that we have gone to a test-all philosophy, the goal is to not have any backlog. But obviously that takes resources,” said the source.

Six million dollars had been awarded to the MCAO to fund the investigations.

One grant came in 2018 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative program, and it was for $1.5 million.

The MCAO was given $1.9 million in 2015 from the 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

“We’ve been using the funding from the DANY and SAKI grants to contract with outside laboratories, and then the various agencies have been sending untested kits to those laboratories.”

The grants have been used to hire a new detective and provide specific training in sexual assault.

The SAKI and DANY has been responsible for the arrest of 1,000 sexual assault offenders and has led to the testing of 100,000 pieces of evidence.

One sexual kit that was left uninvestigated was that of Tracy Rio, even though she has given her a suspect’s name, a friend who had lured her into an empty apartment and assaulted her.

Law enforcement wouldn’t charge him without proof. She underwent a rape kit exam, but nothing ever came of it.

“I lost faith in the system. I thought they didn’t care,” she said.
Her rape kit was tested two years ago, and her case is now being pursued.

“It was amazing to know I was going to get justice,” said Rios. The suspect who attacked her is now serving a seven-year sentence for assault.