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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Testing To Begin On Montana's Backlogged 'Rape Kits'

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
Eric Whitney

Montana’s backlogged sexual assault evidence kits will undergo lab testing beginning this month. Last fall, the state got a $2 million federal grant to fund cataloging and testing of the unsubmitted so-called rape kits. 

Eleven-hundred and forty cardboard boxes full of swabs, scrapings and written accounts of alleged sexual assault, some more than a decade old, are being sent from Montana to a lab in Utah for testing.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced Monday that results from the testing are expected to start coming in as early as September.

“Its an important milestone in this process that has been taking, at this point a year and a half” Fox said.

In 2015, the Department of Justice created a task force to examine issues with the state’s unsubmitted rape kits in Montana. Rape kits can remain untested when attorneys choose not to prosecute, an attacker doesn’t deny having sex with a victim, or a victim fears retribution in coming moving forward with a case.

Once the rape kits are tested, and if there is sufficient evidence, DNA profiles from the kits will be entered into the an FBI system, which allows federal, state, and local forensic lab to exchange information in attempts to link serial criminals.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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