Scioto County Sheriff’s detective Jodi Conkel said the prompt testing of sexual assault kits can make the difference in sexual assault cases.
“I think it is very important to get the sexual assault kits sent to BCI &I as soon as possible to be tested. By doing this quickly I am able to check and see if DNA is present and if so it matches to anybody that is in the data system,” Conkel told the Daily Times in an exclusive interview. “By doing this quickly it can possibly prevent further victims and lead to a quicker arrest.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Thursday that forensic scientists with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI&I) have now tested 10,000 rape kits for DNA as part of a special initiative to secure justice for victims of sexual assault in Ohio.
“This is a tremendous milestone,” DeWine said. “The testing of these 10,000 kits has helped identify hundreds of alleged assailants, many of whom repeatedly committed violent attacks.”
“I have nothing but praise for the Ohio Attorney General’s office for doing this and I am sure as a result of this testing more sexual assault cases will be solved,” Conkel said.
The 10,000 kits were tested as part of Attorney General DeWine’s Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Testing Initiative. DeWine launched the initiative in 2011 after learning that many law enforcement agencies across the state were in possession of rape kits that had never been sent to a DNA lab for testing. He then asked law enforcement officials to voluntarily send their kits to BCI for DNA testing at no cost to them.
Conkel said testing is not limited to sexual crimes.
“We take DNA samples from every felony arrest that comes into the jail, those samples are sent to BCI&I and entered into a data system that is being updated every day,” Conkel said. “If the DNA is not in the system and we learn of a possible suspect later we can obtain DNA from the suspect and submitted it to be compared to the sexual assault kit.”
To date, authorities from 252 law enforcement agencies have sent 12,206 rape kits to BCI for testing as part of the special initiative, including many kits that were decades old. The testing has led to 3,629 hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), linking crimes to offenders, identifying serial rapists, and giving law enforcement agencies critical evidence to help solve brutal attacks.
“As you know not every rape case has evidence or DNA,” Conkel said. “Sometimes they do not get reported until months even years later but for the cases that do have DNA it has made a tremendous difference by submitting these cases and getting them tested, as a result of this we have been able to make numerous arrests and convictions.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.