Hundreds of accused rapists in Ohio now face prosecution for crimes that otherwise might never have been solved. As a result of the Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Testing Initiative launched in 2011, scores of alleged assailants, many of whom repeatedly committed violent acts, have been identified.
Recently, I announced that our Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) forensic scientists reached a significant milestone – they have now tested over 10,000 rape kits for DNA as part of that initiative.
Processing 10,000 rape kits is more than an impressive number. Many of the tests provided crucial evidence that helped solve aging cases and secure long-awaited justice for victims of sexual assault in Ohio. And removing these rapists from our streets has undoubtedly prevented plenty of potential attacks.
We’re meeting those three objectives – solving old cases, securing justice for victims, and stopping repeat offenders – as we work with local law enforcement and prosecutors. For example, after DNA from tested sexual assault kits was matched to profiles in the state’s data base:
Dwayne Wilson was sentenced in 2015 to life in prison for rapes and kidnappings he committed in Cuyahoga County between 1994 and 1997.
Warren Durham received a 41 year prison sentence last June for sexual assaults he committed between 1993 and 1995.
Van Patterson, a serial rapist whose crime spree spans 20 years, was convicted in January for two rapes that took place in 1995 and 2009. He will not be eligible for parole until he is 79 years old.
We put our initiative in motion after we learned that many law enforcement agencies across the state had a backlog of rape kits that were never sent to a DNA lab for analysis. I asked law enforcement officials to voluntarily send their kits to BCI for DNA testing at no cost to them. Even if the DNA profiles don’t yield a direct match right away, they have value because they add to the Ohio and federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and may provide critical evidence in a future criminal case.
As of the first of this month, 259 law enforcement agencies have sent 12,449 rape kits to BCI for testing as part of our initiative, including many kits that were decades old. The testing has led to 3,664 hits in CODIS, linking crimes to offenders, identifying serial rapists, and giving law enforcement agencies critical evidence to help solve brutal attacks.
In Cuyahoga County – the source of most of the submitted sexual assault kits – 448 defendants have been indicted so far. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office identified 162 of them as serial offenders.
Statistics only tell part of the story. Our initiative places Ohio firmly at the forefront of rape kit testing in the nation. DNA testing has shifted the way sexual assaults are investigated in Ohio and confirms the importance of the timely submission of evidence for testing.
Last year the Ohio Legislature reinforced our call to test sexual assault kits. Senate Bill 316, which went into effect on March 23, 2015, calls for law enforcement agencies to submit any remaining old sexual assault kits to a DNA testing laboratory within one year of that date. Senate Bill 316 also calls for any new kits to be submitted to a crime laboratory within 30 days of when law enforcement learns the evidence is associated with a crime.
Our SAK Testing Initiative has delivered meaningful results: Predators like Dwayne Wilson, Warren Durham, and Van Patterson have been held accountable for their crimes. Unsolved cases have been cleared. Victims have realized some measure of justice. And potential attacks by repeat offenders have been prevented.
Mike DeWine is the Ohio Attorney General.