Fayetteville police make progress in sex assaults after 300+ rape kits trashed

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Fayetteville investigators say they’ve made big strides since hundreds of rape kits were mistakenly thrown away several years ago.

The police department’s Special Victims Unit reviewed old sexual assault reports in 2015 while considering the creation of a cold case sexual assault unit.

The SVU commander discovered the destruction of 333 sexual assault kits collected between 1995 and 2008. Police said the kits were from closed-out cases, but called the removal during a process to make more space in the lab “poor procedure.”

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Since those findings two years ago, Fayetteville launched the cold case sexual assault unit.

Investigators said they currently have no backlog in processing rape kits, which was an issue that impacted many departments across the state in recent years, and received grants to assist in the analysis old and new cases.

“That’s been able to assist with training for these detectives making sure that they have the tools that they need to get these investigations complete,” Fayetteville Police Lt. Todd Joyce said.

“They go back and look at a number of these cases to see if there’s any evidence based on any analysis they may get back from DNA, or whatever the case may be, to look at similarities in cases.”

Three cases in the past year involved suspects taking victims to abandoned homes and committing rapes there.

However, investigators said the cases are not connected.

On July 10, detectives said someone attacked a woman walking near the intersection of Fillyaw Road and Yadkin Road, dragged her to an abandoned house, and raped her.

In October, police said three people armed with guns kidnapped a woman on Longhorn Drive, drove her to an empty home, and sexually assaulted her there.

In August, three people grabbed a woman walking along Bragg Boulevard and also took her to an abandoned home where they raped her.

Police said other pieces of evidence show the suspects in these cases were different people. They also credit advances in testing and technology with helping them compare those cases and others.

Earlier this year, Fayetteville Police started using a newer technology for analysis: Parabon’s DNA phenotyping service.

“We have the ability to go back and test a number of cases, not only from here but over in Spring Lake as well, that were not tested previously by a (State Bureau of Investigation) lab or an outside lab, to get those DNA analyses. So they’re doing a lot of those things to move forward in these investigations and hopefully bring some closure to these victims,” Joyce said.

“They work diligently, they work hard, anytime they’re called out, they’re there for that victim from the beginning to the end.”

Investigators continue to communicate with victims in the cold cases, making both phone calls and house calls.

“Some people they have not been able to locate, and one of the things going forward is they’re going to go out and try to find the last address and make a physical contact, a face-to-face (meeting) with this person, so they can talk to them about this investigation,” Joyce said.

 

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