Hank Investigates: Rape Kits - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Hank Investigates: Rape Kits

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It was almost 20 years ago: This woman, 17 at the time, was outside this Leicester house, babysitting when a man came up, held a screwdriver to her throat and forced her into a car

"Dawn"

"I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

The man drove Dawn, and the baby to this remote part of town tied her to a tree, and raped her.

"Dawn"

"I always believed he would come back and kill me."

Dawn got away and at the hospital, gave all kinds of samples, all went into this sexual assault evidence collection kit. But even though police had Dawn's description of her rapist and his car, and a lot of other evidence.

Officer Julie Berry, Leicester Police

"This is the baby blanket..."

They didn’t have a suspect. And since back then there was no DNA testing, Dawn’s kit sat unopened in the state police crime lab.

Leicester Officer Julie Berry pursued the case, and when DNA testing became available--she pushed the crime lab to test Dawn's kit. The results went into this federal database containing the DNA of convicted felons nationwide, and there was a match!

Officer Julie Berry, Leicester Police

“I knew we had him. I knew we had him.”

Case closed. Dawn got her life back.

“Dawn”

"I knew he was behind bars, and there's no chance of him raping another girl again."

But how many other victims are waiting for justice? Maybe hundreds and hundreds.

We found-there are about two thousand unprocessed sexual assault evidence kits at the state crime lab.

Sarah Tofte, Human Rights Watch

“It’s gut wrenching because you know what it took for that victim to come forward, and when the end result is a rape kit sitting untested that result seems so inappropriate and so unacceptable.”

We found some of the evidence is still in this huge refrigerator still in these original boxes. Some has been transferred to refrigerated plastic bags. But these have never been tested, or these, or these, or these.

And the rapists they could help capture for now go free, able to attack again.

Hank Phillippi Ryan

"Why not test the kit, run it though the database, and see if a name comes up! And then you have a suspect."

John Grossman, MA Executive Office Public Safety

"And going forward, that's our goal with every case."

Officials insist crime lab technicians are working non-stop, trying to get through the testing backlog, and they're getting federal grants to help pay for it.

Hank

"Because you know there are answers in those kits."

John Grossman, MA Executive Office Public Safety

"I know that in some of those cases, there's evidence that might be helpful."

Dawn now knows she no longer has to live in fear:

“Dawn”

"I felt so strong, like..you didn’t get away with it. That was just huge."

But this officer is still haunted: wondering what other lives might be changed--by just opening these boxes--and testing what's inside.

Officer Julie Berry, Leicester Police

“The criminals are still out there, and they're probably preying on other victims. I think that's a crime in itself.”

Officials tell us it would cost about a million dollars to analyze the backlog of kits. And right now, they say, that’s money they just don’t have.

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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