Yesterday, our deputy editor received a email with a message that was long overdue from rape victim Helena Lazaro.
Her attacker, Charles Samuel Courtney Jr., was finally sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Marie Claire profiled Helena and her case in a story on the rise of untested rape kits. (Read the entire story here.) Years and years went by after her attack before DNA testing was ever done on Helena's rape kit. Her attacker was finally identified, unfortunately not before he had harmed other women. Now, finally, justice has been served in Helena's case.
She wrote in her email:
I wanted to let you know that yesterday Courtney was officially sentenced to 25 to life, to serve a minimum of 85% of that time. With his current sentence, that means that he will not even be up for parole until 2044, at the age of 79.
I'm so happy, I can't believe it's really over. It's a great ending to a story that could have been really disappointing. I'm hopeful that there will be many more like it, as the national attention on the backlog forces more and more cities to process their evidence-—and not just stop there, but follow the resulting leads to earn convictions like this one.
We couldn't be happier for Helena and can only imagine her feeling of closure, but know there are so many other women who have not yet had this day. It's important that this issue continues to be talked about until there is no longer a backlog of rape kits in any city in America.
If you're interested in getting involved in the fight to end rape kit backlog, Law & Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation is a great place to start. Check out their Backlog Blog for news, updates and information.