Rape kits

Although changes are ahead, a long backlog of untested rape kits, keeps valley victims waiting for justice.

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) - Although changes are ahead, a long backlog of untested rape kits, keeps valley victims waiting for justice.

It was a warm spring night when Jessica went over to an acquaintance's apartment.

"I had gone there by myself," she said. "He was supposed to give me something that I was supposed to give to my boyfriend."

Jessica says the next thing she knew, a knife was out against her body. She says she was just trying to stay calm so she could stay alive.

"He put a chair against the door, and he told me I'm not going anywhere until I give him what he wants," Jessica said. "He said he didn't know why I chose my boyfriend and every time I would move, he got more violent. Then he just did what he was going to do."

After the two hour long attack, Jessica says she ran to the closest place she could, a gas station right down the street. She was just 21 years old.

"He said not to tell anyone or he would kill me."

From the convenience store Jessica called 911 and police arrived. Jessica says she told police who attacked her, and even took them to his apartment. She then went to the hospital for a rape kit, and that was it.

"I was given a paper and told to call within 30 days," she said.

That was nearly five years ago.

"He's just out there living his life," she said. "It comes to my mind sometimes when I'm laying trying to go sleep."

Jessica's rape kit was sealed, and stored as evidence and joined the list of 6,500 others that went untested from 1984 to 2014.

"I just thought this was never going to be resolved," she said.

The high number of rape kits wasn't something Kimberly Murga was proud of. Murga is the director of Lab Services for Metro Police.

"We've known for a while we have a large number of sexual assault kits that have never been subjected to DNA analysis," Murga said. "For southern Nevada there was 6,500 total."

Murga says there are a lot of reasons why this backlog happened. First, Metro didn't start testing DNA until 1999. Second, they just didn't have the manpower to test all of the kits and finally money. Murga says it can cost thousands of dollars to get one kit tested.

Murga worked to help get the funding needed to get all the backlogged rape kits tested, and expanded the team to test them.

"Prior to us starting this we had only tested 100 kits a year, so the fact that we've tested 6,000 in the past two years, that's amazing. And we're pretty close to getting them completed and should have all the kits completed by summer of this year."

One of those kits tested, was Jessica's. And it came back to a match.

She said the match was the man she thought it would be.

While it's a positive turn in her case, it also brings everything back.

"I feel like it really took a part of me," she says. "It just took part of me it was so hard."

Jessica's rape kit, just like nearly half of the other ones tested got a hit in CODIS, otherwise known as the national DNA database. Murga says some of the kits even come back to the same suspect, and the suspects don't just stay in Nevada, perpetrators have been caught in more than a dozen other states. Despite the testing, and efforts the tested rape kits have only yielded 17 arrests.

"These folks prey on our community, they prey on our vulnerable, our kids, adults," she said. "These crimes are prolific, they are terrifying and heartbreaking and often the victims are alive and remember the trauma."

On average, one and a half rape kits come into Metro everyday, or about 45 a month. Jessica wanted people to remember they aren't just kits; these represent victims, whose lives were ruined and sometimes taken by people who are still out there.

"There are just so many women who deserve justice," Jessica said. "So many men running around the streets just living their lives and they get to be happy."

And for the victims, like her, still waiting for justice she has a message: It gets better.

Metro Police confirmed there was a hit on Jessica's rape kit. They also said the suspect in her case may be involved in other crimes.

Metro says they are confident this backlog will not happen again because of a new law passed, Assembly Bill 97. The bill makes it so any sexual assault kit must be submitted within 30 days and testing must be done in 120 days. Metro says they're currently working to get in compliance.

Copyright 2019 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

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