The first two criminal indictments, formal statements charging a defendant with a crime, have been filed in Cuyahoga County, Ohio as a result of Attorney General Mike DeWine’s initiative to clear the state’s rape kit backlog, with many more expected to follow. As we shared recently, 53 law enforcement agencies from across Ohio have submitted 2,465 backlogged rape kits, more than 1,000 of which came from Cleveland. From approximately 600 kits tested so far, 90 DNA hits have resulted.
Unfortunately, a grand jury returned the first indictment one day after the 20-year statute of limitations had expired, which means the prosecution will not move forward. In that case, a rape kit from 1993 matched to Charles Steele, whose DNA profile was entered into the state’s database as a result of his incarceration for another rape case in Hamilton County. Detectives submitted the 1993 kit in July 2011 and did not receive the results until 17 months later. After receiving the results on December 25 of last year, they delayed in handing the case over to prosecutors to present to a grand jury. Two days after Steele was indicted, his DNA matched to yet another attack on a Cleveland woman that occurred eight months after the first Cleveland rape. Charges are pending in the later case.
The second indictment involved charges of rape, kidnapping, assault and attempted murder in another 1993 case against defendant Anthony Moore. This second indictment came just one day before the statute of limitations expired.
As more DNA results return from the lab, police will be working against the clock to investigate cases and turn them over to prosecutors for indictment before the statute of limitations expires. A Plain Dealer analysis conducted in February estimated approximately one-third of the kits sent to the lab could result in a DNA hit, if testing trends continue. That would mean more than 1,100 hits once the 3,000-plus kits in storage have been tested. Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath has said he plans to add up to two more detectives to the Sex Crimes & Child Abuse unit and to enlist the help of the FBI, if necessary.
Attorney General DeWine announced the backlog initiative in December 2011 and hired four new forensic scientists to focus exclusively on testing backlogged kits. Of the initiative, he said:
“More DNA hits mean more cold cases become open investigations for our local law enforcement agencies. My office is dedicated to helping our local authorities resolve as many of these cases as possible. I encourage any department with sexual assault kits that have not been tested, no matter how old the case is, to submit them now. We want them. We want to help bring justice to the victims. We want to solve more cases.”