Last month we posted about the Cleveland Heights Police Department that failed to test a survivor’s rape kit from 2009. The evidence contained in her rape kit linked to Anthony Sowell, who is currently standing trial for the murder of 11 women in Ohio.

This recent case shines light on the rape kit backlog in Ohio and on the way law enforcement responds to sexual violence. From an article in The Plain Dealer:

Cleveland Heights police say they did not test sexual assault evidence that could have connected another woman’s rape to serial-killings suspect Anthony Sowell in 2009 because they didn’t know they had the evidence.

City officials said they discovered the rape kit among other stored evidence almost two years later when Cleveland police asked for itas a part of their investigation ofSowell [for other charges].

The Plain Dealer reported that the police department sent urine and blood samples to the lab along with the victim’s clothing, but did not submit the actual rape kit, which contained the DNA evidence from the perpetrator.

Only two states–Illinois and now Texas–and some cities–notably New York City and San Francisco–have implemented protocols that mandate that all rape kits are tested in a timely manner, so errors and negligence like this are not unique. The Plain Dealer points out in an editorial from last week:

[Cleveland Heights City Law Director John] Gibbon and current Cleveland Heights Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson…have said that a detective attempted to investigate the alleged rape, but that the victim was uncooperative. Gibbon said the detective called and left a card for her numerous times after the initial report, but she never contacted him.

Yet she did cooperate enough to provide the department with ample physical evidence that, if properly handled, should have led to an arrest — possibly saving lives.

That’s why sexual assault is a serious crime that merits serious attention and police time — time and attention that the Cleveland Heights Police Department, under former Chief Martin Lentz, did not accord to this case.

In the wake of this case, a task force commissioned by the Ohio Attorney General’s office has resumed its work to implement a statewide protocol on handling sexual assault cases and rape kits. In another article in The Plain Dealer, Joe Guillen reports that the police departments will be surveyed over the next month about situations in which they do–and do not–send sexual assault kits to labs for testing. The commission will use the results to to better understand inconsistencies throughout the state and to inform their recommendations for statewide standards for handling sexual assault evidence.