- Associated Press - Friday, September 11, 2015

MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut authorities will use a $1.4 million federal grant to help process DNA samples in up to 900 reported sexual assault cases that have been sitting untested in police departments statewide.

Guy Vallaro, director of the state forensic science laboratory, said some of the sexual assault kits containing the DNA samples are more than 20 years old. He said there should be no problems testing such old evidence, provided it was stored properly and not contaminated.

“I have every reason to believe that we will get DNA evidence from the kits,” Vallaro told The Hartford Courant (https://cour.at/1F0ti9s ).

The state crime lab was one of 20 across the country to receive $41 million in Department of Justice grants that were announced Thursday by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who said the money will be used to address a national backlog of untested sexual assault kits and help ensure that new kits are tested promptly.

“This comprehensive review will help to bring justice to thousands of victims who have had to wait for the turn of this technical wheel,” Lynch said in a statement. “For anyone who has felt isolated and afraid, for anyone that has lost faith or lost hope as a result of a sexual crime, this is our pledge to you: we will not forget you. We will not abandon you.”

The Connecticut lab will use the grant to hire a coordinator and technicians to test the kits. Police departments already have sent the lab about half the untested kits, of which about 100 have been analyzed, Vallaro said.

Vallaro told the Courant that he assumed the police departments with the untested kits had various reasons based on their investigations for not submitting them to the lab. He would not say whether a backlog at the crime lab played a role.

Lab scientists have greatly reduced testing backlogs since 2011, when the lab lost its national accreditation and access to the FBI’s DNA databanks after Justice Department audits found problems including large backlogs. The lab regained its accreditation in 2012.

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Information from: Hartford Courant, https://www.courant.com


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