Detective lauds sexual assault kits

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

Detective Jodi Conkel

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today released a status update on the progress of DNA testing being conducted as part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Testing Initiative.

As of Sept. 1, 2016, 294 law enforcement agencies have submitted 13,930 kits to be tested as part of the initiative.

Forensic scientists with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) have completed testing on a total of 11,705 kits, resulting in 4,221 hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

According to the National Institute of Justice, a sexual assault kit (SAK) is a collection of evidence gathered from the victim by a medical professional, often a specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). The type of evidence collected depends on what occurred during the assault. The contents of a kit vary by jurisdiction, but generally include swabs, test tubes, microscopic slides and evidence collection envelopes for hairs and fibers.​

In Scioto County, there is probably no one who deals with more sexual assaults than Scioto County Sheriff’s Detective Jodi Conkel.

“Each case is different,” Conkel told the Daily Times. “In some sexual assaults we have no evidence and so if there is any evidence whatsoever, that can even make or break a case.”

DeWine launched the initiative in 2011 after learning that many law enforcement agencies across the state were in possession of rape kits, some of which were decades old, that had never been sent to a DNA lab for testing. Attorney General DeWine then made an open call to law enforcement to send their kits to BCI for DNA testing at no cost to them.

To ensure the timely analysis of the thousands of kits submitted as part of the SAK Testing Initiative, DeWine hired 10 additional forensic scientists. By hiring this additional staff, the older kits are tested as quickly as possible, without slowing down the testing of the more than 10,800 rape kits associated with recent crimes tested by BCI as part of their regular casework since 2011.

Conkel said she has submitted 23 sexual assault kits on new cases this year.

How man convictions were the result of that evidence?

“I would have to look it up, but I know we have gotten convictions on all that are finished,” Conkel said. “I have several still pending with court dates.”

Conkel explained the role sexual assault kits play in a sexual assault case.

“If you’ve got a sexual assault, and say the person says they have no idea what you’re talking about, I’ve never been around this person, then the sexual assault kit shows that person’s DNA, you’ve got a problem,” Conkel said. “That’s great evidence to help you prove the charges against the person.”

Senate Bill 316, which went into effect in March 2015, required Ohio law enforcement agencies to submit any remaining previously untested sexual assault kits associated with a past crime to a crime laboratory by March 23, 2016. Of the nearly 14,000 kits submitted to BCI as part of the SAK Testing Initiative, 4,600 were submitted after the law went into effect. The law also requires that all newly collected rape kits be submitted to a crime lab within 30 days after law enforcement determines a crime has been committed.

Detective Jodi Conkel Jodi Conkel

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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