State matches DNA from 33 rape kits

    SALEM — Oregon State Police say they have matched DNA from more than two dozen backlogged sexual assault kits to DNA on file in a national database.

    Results have come back on several hundred rape kits sent to Salt Lake City for testing, said state police Capt. Alex Garner, including 33 that matched the national database DNA profiles. It's not clear whether the new information has led to any prosecutions or exonerations, the Statesman-Journal reported.

    Garner provided the update to a legislative taskforce overseeing the backlog last week.

    The kits contain evidence collected at hospitals when someone says they have been a victim of sexual assault. The biological samples can be tested against suspected attackers or used to back up court testimony.

    Oregon police sent several hundred untested kits to Utah after the state passed legislation meant to speed up the testing. Melissa's Law was passed six months ago, when nearly 5,000 untested kits were stored around the state, and authorities are still struggling to process thousands of rape kits.

    New rape kits are streaming in at the same time police are trying to sort through the backlog, authorities say, and it's not clear which kits should be prioritized.

    The legislation passed earlier this year included $1.5 million for the state police to hire more crime lab analysts. Officials say six analysts have been hired, but at least three positions are still unfilled.

    New forensic analysts also need extensive training that requires a veteran analyst to be pulled off current cases, Gardner said.

    "Many on the outside are thinking, 'Well, you got approval for the money, why aren't we seeing improvement?' " Gardner said to the task force. "The answer is, we're going to see improvement probably about 18 months after these people are hired."

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