A backlog of thousands of untested rape kits in Detroit has allowed serial rapists to walk the streets and even commit more sexual assaults, according to a new report.
About 11,000 kits containing DNA evidence were recovered from a Detroit storage facility in 2009. The majority of them, about 9,400 kits, had never been tested in a lab. Since then, only 2,000 were tested, the Detroit Free Press reported.
A Free Press investigation showed many rapists fall through the cracks and commit more crimes without rape evidence being exposed. Serial rapist DeShawn Starks, who was reportedly paroled in March 2013 despite multiple DNA tests linking him to other crimes, was convicted last month of homicide, which was committed shortly after his release. He was sentenced to 45 to 90 years in prison last month in Warne County Circuit Court.
“I feel like they could have did more,” said the 34-year-old victim, who was assaulted by Starks in 2003.
Another rape suspect, Eric Eugene Wilkes impersonated a police officer and sexually assaulted a deaf woman in June 2006. The victim’s rape kit was not tested for six years. When it finally was, the DNA test linked Wilkes to three other rapes which were committed in 2011.
Wilkes is now serving eight to 30 years in prison.
The remaining 7,400 kits are expected to be tested this year after the state legislature put aside $4 million to send them to private labs.
When they are tested, they are expected to generate as many as 2,000 hits in the Combined DNA Index System, which means a huge volume of new work for Detroit police and the court system.
“The pile is going to get higher and higher, deeper and deeper,” Rebecca Campbell, a psychology professor at Michigan State University who was hired by the National Institute of Justice to evaluate how the Detroit rape kits were handled, told the Free Press.
“So much of the push at the national level has been test them, test them, test them,” Campbell said. “OK, now what? We need to investigate and prosecute.”