SEATTLE — The effort to end the rape kit backlog has been a focus for Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office runs the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
Eight years ago, Washington had more than 10,000 untested rape kits.
"We had a number of kits sitting on shelves for a number of reasons,” state Representative Tina Orwall said in March.
Lawmakers like Orwall pushed for change, and progress has been made with thousands of kits tested, but there is still plenty of work to do.
"There is another problem that's related, which is convicted felons in our state are legally required to provide their DNA to law enforcement, but the reality is many thousands have slipped through the cracks,” said Ferguson.
A team working inside Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office has been on a mission to follow up on cases where sex offender's failed to provide DNA.
Recently, the team produced results, identifying 635 registered sex offenders who lawfully owed a DNA sample. Of that number, 257 offenders could not provide samples for reasons like they were incarcerated in another state or they passed away. There are six offenders law enforcement have not reached yet; one in Clark County, two in Columbia County, and three in Snohomish County. There were 372 new DNA samples collected.
"If local law enforcement is trying to solve a cold case, they can put that DNA in and see if there's a match,” said Ferguson.
So far there have been eight matches that are now under review. Three "hits" are for unsolved sex offenses in Washington. In two of the cases, the offender was already convicted, or a confirmed suspect. Three hits are from out-of-state offenses.
"Each of these numbers is some individual story right, a sexual assault survivor who really needs justice and accountability for what happened,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson said his office’s next focus will be on collecting DNA from people convicted for other serious offenses, like homicides, so it can also be added to the national database. He said that part of the project should be done by early Summer.