FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – More than 20 people have been arrested after Fayetteville police started digging through hundreds of old rape kits more than two years ago.
But police say they’re not done yet, there’s still a big backlog.
Police say any time a victim does a rape kit, all of that DNA evidences ends up in a box, and goes in a small room inside the police department. The problem is some weren’t getting investigated.
Inside the evidence room, the boxes are stacked from floor to ceiling, full of rape kits that have been sitting on the shelf for years.
Police say they had a steady backlog of morethan 1,000 rape kits, DNA evidence that was never even touched.
“We didn’t have access to private labs,” said Fayetteville Police Special Victims Unit Lt. John Somerindyke. “Frankly, probably we didn’t understand the importance of sending them to labs, so a lot of things contributed to the back log, it just grew and grew and grew.”
In September 2015, then Chief Harold Medlock ordered cases reopened after many sexual assault kits were disposed of to make room in the department’s evidence room.
“We destroyed over 300 hundred rape kits,” said Somerindyke. “The only thing we found in common with all the cases is that it was no longer being investigated.”
Somerindyke says they haven’t thrown away any evidence since 2008, when the law changed.
Police departments can not legally throw away rape kits.
But almost 10 years later, police got a grant to pay for testing and a way to help.
“We’re really scrutinizing these cases more than it was before, we’ve got some set strict guidelines in place for evidence collection and for sending evidence off,” said Somerindyke.
He says more than 100 have been sent off, another hundred already tested with the grant money but police say it could take more time before they actually catch more rapists.
So far, they put more than 20 behind bars after digging through all of the rape kits.
And police say they’re not done yet.
There are about 400 rape kits still on the shelves, that they’re working on getting tested.