Sexual Assault Cases from Detroit Analyzed Forensically in Huntington


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More than 11,000 sexual assault test kits, used by medical professionals after a woman is sexually assaulted, were found abandoned in Detroit.

Eight hundred of those kits are now in the hands of forensics analysts in Huntington. They are testing the kits to see if there is any viable DNA left.

"The technology has advanced to such a point that we are able to do that," said Dr. Terry Fenger, director of the Marshall University Forensic Center.

If there is, they are able to send the evidence off to a central database in Michigan to see if any cases can be prosecuted.

This is not the first time Marshall's forensic lab has been the go-to place for cities with backlogged crime labs. Kits from Los Angeles have been analyzed there, as have kits from a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. New, advanced technology meant DNA was able to be harvested from some of those water-soaked kits in New Orleans. According to Fenger, the city is still working to rebuild its crime lab.

In some cases, analysts are called to testify in court. Those are the times when they know their work has made a difference in a case. However, most times the work goes into state-specific databases and potentially a match is made. The hope is that justice is served.

Time, money and priorities of cases are all reasons why there are so many of these kits that go untested.

"Sometimes there is minimal funding for these agencies," Fenger said. "They really don't have the funds to do this testing because the DNA testing kits themselves are very expensive."

For quite some time, there was no DNA database, so doing a test when a perpetrator was unknown was not useful. Today the DNA testing can go much further.


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