Audit finds 5,300 untested sexual assault kits in Indiana

A box containing an Indiana sexual assault kit. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Thousands of sexual assault kits are untested … just sitting on the shelves across Indiana. The big question is why?

According to a statewide audit, more than 5,300 untested sexual assault kits are still sitting in evidence storage at law enforcement agencies across Indiana. While that may sound like a large number, state officials said only about half of those could qualify for testing.

State Sen. Michael Crider, a Republican in Greenfield, said, “Some of those cases may have been set on the shelf and forgotten about. But, we don’t know exactly why they exist.”

The audit states there were roughly 256 untested kits in Marion County in 2015. As of November, there were 15 untested kits in Allen County. One hundred seventy-three were in Vanderburgh County, and 127 were in Vigo County. St. Joseph County had the highest number of untested kits, at 478.

David Powell with the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council said, “Some of these kits may be very, very old. One of the other things, maybe a kit was submitted (completed) a long time ago, when we didn’t have the capabilities we have now, but it was held onto because the case was unsolved.”

During the last legislative session, , State Senator Michael Crider created Senate Resolution 55.

It urged Indiana State Police to audit all untested sexual assault kits in the state and report the results before Friday.

Crider said, “I think the goal is to now dig into that number that exists and try to figure out how we most effectively get those into the system and tests.”

Testing these kits is not cheap. Indiana State Police said it can cost anywhere from $750 to $1,250 to process,

There is no state law requiring sexual assault kits be analyzed.

State police Maj. Steve Holland, the laboratory division commander, said, “These investigations from this grouping of 2,500 kits should be reviewed at the local level so a prioritized listing can be determined.”

Tracey Horth Krueger is CEO of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault. She advocates for sexual assault victims across Indiana.

“It’s very frustrating. It’s frustrating for victims. When you think about each of those boxes representing a person, someone that’s been victimized in the most horrific way, it makes you sad that there is a backlog,” Horth Krueger said. “I want them (victims) to know that we take this seriously. We are going to make this better. We are going to be aggressive to make sure we’re thinking comprehensively about what that kit represents, who that kit represents. They are the most important person in this work.”

So what happens next?

The audit offers some recommendations, including having law enforcement review closed cases to see if there might be any new leads that could come from kit analysis.

The senator said he’s going to introduce a bill next session that tries to make a way for the qualified kits to be tested.