Ohio Attorney General To Start Plan To Alleviate DNA Testing Backlog - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Ohio Attorney General To Start Plan To Alleviate DNA Testing Backlog

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The state is starting a financial incentive program that it hopes will help solve cold rape and homicide cases while alleviating a statewide backlog of more than 3,000 untested DNA samples from crime scenes.

Attorney General Betty Montgomery on Monday announced the program, New Hope Initiative, at the Northeast Forensic Laboratory and Training Center in Richfield.

The Cleveland Police Department will be the first agency to participate in the program, which then will be opened to all departments in the state.

The program will encourage police departments to reduce the number of untested rape kits and other evidence from crimes where there are no suspects. Under the program, each department would get $100 every time they send evidence from a cold case to the state for testing and inclusion in the state's DNA database.

"This initiative offers new hope to victims of crime whose cases remain unsolved," Montgomery said. "The more 'cold cases' added to the database, the better our chances to solve crimes and bring closure to victims and their families who are seeking justice."

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on March 4 announced a plan to make $100 million available to help states reduce their DNA testing backlogs. About $200,000 of the $2.2 million Ohio received will be spent on paying the incentives.

Some rape kits, which often include evidence such as hair samples or bodily fluids, sit for years in police evidence rooms without being tested. Usually, they only are examined if police have a suspect in a rape case.

About 4,500 rapes are reported in Ohio each year, and 650 kits are stored untested in Cleveland, while Akron and Toledo have 350 and 800, respectively, according to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

Since BCI initiated its electronic DNA database last year, police and crime labs have been urged to submit their rape kits for comparison to the 34,000 DNA profiles gathered in Ohio from convicted felons and crime scenes.

The DNA collected in rape kits is entered into the database, which takes samples from crime scenes and matches them with DNA collected from convicted offenders in Ohio and nationally.

State officials say the DNA comparisons have matched 35 offenders to crimes and, in 25 occasions, have linked the same suspect to two or more crimes.

Ohio law now allows the state to collect the genetic codes of all adult and juvenile offenders convicted of one of 14 violent crimes, including murder, rape and kidnapping.

A bill on its way to Gov. Bob Taft for his signature would allow the state to collect blood samples from inmates convicted of additional types of crime, including aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated murder, attempted murder, burglary, felonious assault and robbery.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Powered by Frankly