ISP tests final sexual assault kit from 2016 backlog

Few details being released in ISP investigation
Posted at 4:26 PM, Dec 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-30 18:38:12-05

IDAHO — Idaho State Police says they have tested the final rape kit from a backlog identified in 2016 with more than 1,100 untested kits.

This announcement comes after the Idaho Legislature passed a bill back in 2016 requiring law enforcement agencies to send rape kits to ISP for testing. According to the law, ISP is required to test the kit within 90 days.

Idaho Sen. Melissa Wintrow introduced this legislation and has a background working with sexual assault victims at Boise State University.

"I never once had a victim pounding their fist, saying, "I want someone in jail." You know what they want? They want to be believed. They want to be taken seriously. They want to be listened to," she said. "If we don't process evidence that we're collecting off of somebody's body to hold someone else accountable for a crime, then that's not listening and that's not taking seriously."

ISP is still working towards that 90 day turnaround time, but they said after hiring additional staff and working through the backlog identified in 2016, they're completing 15 to 20 kits per week.

In 2020, ISP collected more than 470 kits.

"Both doing screening on them which means looking for evidence of biological material," Matthew Gamette, the Laboratory System Director for ISP Forensic Services said. "And if we found that then we move forward with the DNA typing process."

ISP said it's taken five years to work through the backlog of kits for several reasons.

"We did it differently than some states have done it. We looked at every swab in every kit so we're not going to go back at some point and pull these kits back up and hope that there's more additional DNA evidence," Gamette said.

ISP has also seen an increase in submitted kits. As we reported back in 2019, a law went into effect requiring ISP to test all kits. The previous law required ISP to test all kits unless a crime was determined not to have been committed or the victim said they didn't want it processed.

This led to an estimated 100 additional kits needing to be tested each year. Wintrow also said the state needs to ensure salaries for the employees that test the kits are competitive with other states.

"Part of it is an increase in population in Idaho and an increase in crime rate that we see go along with the population increase," Gamette said.

ISP's backlog now goes back to August 2020, but they said it isn't taking a year and a half to test every kit that comes in. They have to test by priority.

"If we have a serial rapist situation where we know there's a risk to public safety. If we have a risk to victim safety, if we have someone out there that's making threats against their victim, that's a case that's also going to get moved up in the queue," Gamette said.

Cases where the court or an investigator needs information to move forward with an investigation, are also considered high priority.