In our September 2010 issue, writer Ralph Blumenthal told the shocking story of Helena Lazaro, whose rape kit wasn't tested until 2009—13 years after her brutal rape in Los Angeles. Lazaro's rape kit was found among the 12,669 untested kits uncovered in the Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff's Department last year. But what happened to Lazaro is happening to many women. Crime labs across the country are sitting on appalling backlogs. Human Rights Watch recently found that only 20 percent of nearly 8,000 rape kits booked into police storage in Illinois from 1995 to 2009 were ever tested—this after Rod Blagojevich falsely pronounced the state backlog-free in 2005. As far back as 2002, Houston's crime lab had run up a backlog of 19,500 untested rape kits. Detroit has over 10,000 unopened and untested kits in their possession. And police in Denver actually threw out DNA evidence from nearly 6,000 rape and murder cases. And in crime labs that still haven't bothered to count their backlog, the numbers could be far worse. Here, four more women tell the stories of their cases:
"On July 1, 1985, I was abducted, shot, beaten, robbed, and raped repeatedly. Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department reopened my case five years ago, and it was discovered that my case was closed just three weeks after the assault, crime scene film was never developed, and most of the evidence—including my rape kit—is believed to have been destroyed. The only evidence left is my clothing from that night, and I am actively pursuing "touch DNA" testing in the hopes that my assailant may be held accountable for his actions."
—Jennifer Storm "I had a rape kit done the day after my assault. They found some of the attacker's DNA on my body, but it wasn't used in the court case. He was caught about a week after the assault, but not from the rape kit information. He was ultimately found guilty in federal court without the use of the evidence found in the rape kit. The rape kit was an extremely traumatic experience, and I was never told about the status of my kit until years later when I opened the court records myself and found the results among the paperwork. It was a relief to see that there was physical proof of what happened to me, but I was disappointed that no one had ever told me about the results. I spent years wondering."
—Eliina Nicole Keitelman
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