In 2011, Attorney General Mike DeWine implemented an initiative requesting that law enforcement agencies submit the untested kits at their departments to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) for testing free of charge. An eleven-member multidisciplinary commission that the Attorney General’s Office convened to address the backlog had recommended this new policy. To handle the influx of rape kits at the state crime lab, Attorney General DeWine announced a new unit with four forensic scientists dedicated to testing backlogged kits.
As of February 2014, BCI had received 5,523 untested rape kits from 121 of the state's 970 law enforcement agencies and tested 2,737 kits, resulting in 886 DNA matches in CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System. From those matches, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office secured more than 75 indictments and hundreds of additional leads to investigate. BCI began testing the oldest rape kits first in order to move cases forward before the 20-year statute of limitations expired.
The Cleveland Police Department, which is located in Cuyahoga County, submitted the most kits—more than 2,700—followed by Akron, Cincinnati and Toledo. Nearly 80 of the matches from Cleveland cases alone tied multiple rapes to known offenders already in the database or the DNA profiles of unknown suspects. Statewide, approximately 19 percent of the DNA matches are linked to more than one case.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office dedicated several investigators to assist with locating survivors whose kits were now being tested and to work with Cleveland sex crimes detectives and BCI agents to investigate leads. Victim advocates helped survivors receiving news about their rape kits to navigate both the criminal justice and healing processes.
Learn more about Ohio's reforms and read about its efforts in the media here.