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San Diego DA Announces Testing Complete On Backlog Of Rape Kits

Patch logo Patch 6/10/2021 Dan Shalin
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SAN DIEGO, CA —San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced Wednesday that all 2,030 untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) from across the county have been tested at an independent lab, and a new criminal case has been filed as a result.

According to a release, reducing the countywide backlog of untested SAKs has been a priority for Stephan since she took office in 2017. The release called Wednesday's news a significant milestone in a three-year process.

"Behind this monumental milestone of testing 2,030 sexual assault kits is an elite DA team of prosecutors, investigators, paralegals and victim advocates who worked tirelessly to bring dignity and determination to each case," Stephan said. " We will continue to prioritize the testing of sexual assault kits and to invest in following up and investigating any hits to determine if a case built on proof beyond a reasonable doubt can be filed.”

The DA's office said the testing resulted in a criminal case being filed against defendant Larry Gene Rivers, who is accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 2014. Rivers, 57,was charged with two counts of a lewd act upon a child and faces up to 21 years in prison if convicted. The DNA evidence from the kit helped lead to the charges. Rivers was arraigned in April and has a hearing scheduled for August 24.

"With the filing of a criminal case as a result of our testing project, it's proof that these sexual assault kits contain powerful evidence that can speak on behalf of victims and help us pursue justice on their behalf years later," Stephan said.

Statistics related to the testing are updated monthly and can be found on the DA's public website. According to the release, results from this round of testing indicate that 735 of the kits contained DNA other than that of the victim. The DNA is now in the process of being uploaded into the FBI's national CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database to determine if there is a potential offender match.

As of May 2021, the DA's office reported, DNA results from 485 kits had been uploaded into CODIS, and there were 167 new offender hits. Of those hits, 125 were "warm" hits, which means the suspect was known to the victim or the victim knew the real name of the suspect and the suspect was identified.

Meanwhile, 42 hits were considered "cold" hits, which means the suspect was not known to the victim, or the victim did not provide an actual real name or identification.

The DA's office said there had been 52 case-to-case hits, which means the DNA profile from one case matches to a DNA profile from a different case. A case-to-case hit could lead to an investigation.

The San Diego DA said Bode Cellmark Forensics of Lorton, Virginia was used in the DNA testing. The labs responsible for conducting the CODIS uploads for the project are Verdugo Lab in Glendale and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Crime Lab. About $1.7 million has been spent on testing thus far by the DA's office.

According to the DA's office, this round of testing clears the untested kits from the sheriff's department, eight police departments and three university police departments. The initiative does not include the kits from the San Diego Police Department. Though that department does send its kits to the same outside laboratory being used by the DA's office.

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