Reality Check: 77 hits from rape kit testing
Mobile, Al (WPMI) —
For decades, the Mobile Police Department let critical evidence in rape cases sit on evidence shelves, instead of sending it off to a lab to be tested. Now, the department is doing an about-face making sure all that evidence, known as rape kits, is finally tested. NBC 15's Andrea Ramey investigates the delay in justice as victims search for answers in tonight's Reality Check.
Hundreds of rape kits sit on evidence shelves at the Mobile Police Department. untested. A rape kit this woman, who we'll call Jane, submitted may be one of the untested.
"I felt like nothing was being done," said Jane.
In 2007 Jane says she was drugged by two men she had just met... and raped. She didn't realize what had happened to her until she came to..
"He took me home and I slept for like a day and half." said Jane. "I was hurting bad. I was cramping. I was hurting."
Jane says she went to USA Medical Center, where she was examined and met with a Mobile Police detective.
"I gave them my articles of clothing to them," said Jane. "I shut down after that. I had a nervous breakdown a few weeks later. I was trying to kill myself."
Four years after we exposed the Mobile Police Department had no idea how many untested rape kits were in evidence, 315 still need to be tested.
In 2015 - the department addressed the problem and received its first wave of federal grant money to inventory and test all rape kits.
"When we began the process, we had 1,412 kits that had not been tested," said Chief Lawrence Battiste.
The oldest kit dates back to 1979. In many cases kits were not tested if the suspect was known and claimed it was consensual or if victims did not want to proceed in the prosecution.
"My position is we should test all kits," said Battiste.
The department is now receiving its third round of grants, $1.9 million, to help test every kit and implement changes so this never happens again.
"We are diligently working on making sure we get through every kit that had not been previously tested," said Battiste.
"They're taking accountability for their problem," said Ilse Knecht with The Joyful Heart Foundation.
The group advocates nationwide for the elimination of untested rape kits.
"Those communities that are applying for the sexual assault kit initiative are the ones that are out in front," said Knecht.
While the advocacy group applauds the departments action in recent years, Jane says it still doesn't erase all the years of inaction.
"Why wasn't it done from the get go. It should've been done from the get go," said Jane.
Unlike other states, there is no statute of limitations for rape or sexual assault in Alabama. Meaning even if the case is 40 years old, the rapist could still be sent to prison.
So far, testing has resulted in 77 hits in a national database, but there have been no arrests. The commander of the special victims unit say they are very close on a couple cases that are 20 years old.