As Detroit Rape Kits Sit Untested, Justice for Victims Is Denied

Paul Egan and Gina Damron, Detroit Free Press, April 21, 2014

Nearly five years after the discovery of 11,000 abandoned rape evidence kits in a Detroit police warehouse sparked outrage, only about 2,000 of the kits have undergone DNA testing, allowing serial rapists to remain free and in some cases commit more attacks.

All the kits are finally expected to get tested this year because the state Legislature appropriated $4 million to send them to private labs.

As important as the DNA is, testing alone is only a part of the equation in getting justice for the hundreds of people who have been victimized and getting dangerous sexual predators off the streets. Testing on the kits has already produced more than 500 hits with named suspects on a national DNA database, but police and prosecutors haven’t even begun to follow up on more than 150 of those leads.

The reasons for the delays are varied. Only on TV crime shows can investigators get a DNA hit and rush out and charge a suspect, officials say. In real life, and particularly in cases dating back a decade or more–as many of the thousands of discovered rape kits are–once evidence is tested, victims must be found, witnesses must be interviewed or re-interviewed, and old police files must be located or reconstructed.

Further complicating matters in the Detroit rape cases has been a lack of resources–money, as well as police, prosecutors and investigators–a lack of communication and coordination among the investigating agencies, and a loss of trust among victims in the agencies that seemingly mishandled their cases, allowing several attackers to victimize others.


The 7,400 rape kits recently sent to private labs are expected to produce as many as 2,000 more hits on the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, creating a massive volume of follow-up work metro Detroit officials are ill-equipped to handle.

“The pile is going to get higher and higher, deeper and deeper,” said Rebecca Campbell, a psychology professor at Michigan State University who was hired by the National Institute of Justice to evaluate how the Detroit rape kits were handled.


The problem in Detroit is aggravated because the Detroit Police Department, which mishandled the rape kits to begin with, wants to help clear the backlog, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy doesn’t want them involved. She says rape victims whose kits were lost don’t trust the DPD and that makes their work counterproductive.

Worthy’s office is in line for a share of the $35 million in rape kit backlog relief money President Barack Obama announced in his recent budget, and Gov. Rick Snyder’s office has also promised her money to help with the rape kit investigations. But Worthy couldn’t say recently how much additional help she needs to handle the extra work, let alone how much she is likely to get.

The 2,000 kits tested so far were done in two batches. Detroit Police helped investigate the first 400 randomly selected kits, under Project 400. Worthy obtained a National Institute of Justice grant to work on the next 1,600 and shut the DPD out, instead using investigators in her office.

The two agencies disagree about the success of the Project 400 work. Detroit police say they requested warrants on 66 cases, Worthy’s office approved only 28 of those warrants, and 18 cases remain under investigation. Worthy’s office says Detroit police work produced only 16 warrant requests and four convictions, though five warrants are pending and two cases are currently being prosecuted.


Worthy says Detroit police need to “finish their original commitment,” to Project 400 where follow-up has been very low.

“They need to concentrate on that right now,” she said. ‘We need to concentrate on the others.”


Detroit is not alone in having a huge backlog of untested rape kits. The cities of Los Angeles and Memphis and the states of Texas and Illinois have also faced backlogs of thousands of untested kits and Wayne County is in some ways considered a model for its methods in tackling the problem, said Sarah Tofte, vice president of policy at the Joyful Heart.


Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • MekongDelta69

    I saw “serial rapists such as DeShawn Starks” – and that’s all I needed to read…

  • There’s another side to this coin.

    If and when they do clear through this backlog of rape kits, and start making suspects, imagine the disparate impact that will have on black men.

    And imagine the car wreck at the intersectionality of feminism and black.

    • dcc2379

      Disparate impact is loony because it equates fairness with equality, but only as it helps the black man! Still, this is the most egregious example of white liberals thinking if something isn’t equal (arrests), then it isn’t fair.

    • MBlanc46

      Rape laws be rayciss.

      • Pro_Whitey

        Funny because it’s true.

    • NeanderthalDNA

      I can’t help but wonder how much “11,000 abandoned rape evidence kits” would bring at an auction of the detritus of Western civilization?

  • Luca

    They would save a lot of time processing those DNA rape kits if they don’t waste any time trying to find the sub-Saharan DNA markers. Just bypass that phase of the testing and move right on to the more critical, definitive markers.

  • Jesse James

    Nothing says “civil society” like 9,000 abandoned DNA rape kits, this is de facto legalization of rape in Detroit.

    • Michael Mason

      To blacks, rape and sex mean the same thing.

  • FozzieT

    They should focus only on the cases where the victims were White, since it is Whites who are paying for this. It was the black-run police department who hid these kits away in a warehouse. Plus, for blacks, rape and sex are one and the same.

  • IstvanIN

    Government, ANC style, right here.

  • Romulus

    Hhhmmmmm. 9000 backlog?
    Black on black? Yaaaawwwwwnnn!
    Pro choice?
    Like alvin holmey from alabama said , ” Whites would support abortion if our daughters were knocked up by a negroe!”
    Of course I would. If pregnancy involved rape, i would support abortion, castration/vasectomy and capital punishment.

  • MBlanc46

    Why should rape investigations be any more efficient than anything is Detroit?

  • I suspect that the seven-year statute of limitations will mean that many of these old cases can never be prosecuted.

    • Who Me?

      You don’t really think some pervert raped someone once 7 years ago and never repeated the crime? Most crime studies will tell you rape is a crime that gets repeated as often as the opportunity arises.

      • My four immediate family members are – in order of ascending age – my daughter, my wife, my sister and my mother:all female. If someone raped any of them, I’d hunt him down and abduct him. While I am a recovering orc, I completely understand that I will never be able to get rid of all of that taint.

        My mother lives in a safe neighborhood, and loves walking around it, but won’t do it after dark without me being with her. We all like walks at night in the rain, but they won’t do it without me, separately or together. I understand I that as a man, I am completely responsible for their safety. That might seem “sexist” to a libtard,

  • Who Me?

    If Detroit’s women object to being raped or having their daughters raped, they need to arm themselves and either shoot to kill before they are attacked, or after they are attacked and know who the rapist is. Just GO AND KILL THE SOB. As black women, if this translates into any sort of real numbers, they will not be prosecuted. It might even turn into some sort of positive reward program. I can’t imagine that the police–who know the score but have their hands tied–would expend very much energy on looking for the person or person’s responsible for the mysterious death of several known or suspected rapists on a weekly basis.

  • Diana Moon Glampers

    I consider Detroit to be an African city in America. Anyone who goes there should expect African standards, and should not complain when that is what they find. The only shame in this story is the federal money (mine and yours) being thrown at the elected Africans.

    • IstvanIN

      Perhaps it should be posted under foreign aid?

  • Cannot Tell

    There was a Law & Order: SVU episode about a female detective who went on a mission to get rape victims justice after discovering that thousands of rape kits hadn’t been tested. For those of you who don’t watch the show, Law & Order: SVU is a show about detectives who investigate sex crimes in New York City. Comically enough, most of the violent criminals on the show are white.

    • Strider73

      CSI: Miami was even more comical. Nearly all the criminals were white in a city where <10% of the population is white.

  • The WOMYN’s groups that were marching against “male violence,” if they had any pictures or images at all, they probably showed or suggested images and pics of white men.

  • Whirlwinder

    Who is worried about rape in Detroit? We need the FedGov to send us hundreds of millions so we can enjoy our retirement; since our fund is bankrupt.