DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As Durham police are working through a backlog of untested sexual assault kits, officers said the plan is to send the remaining 160 untested kits to a vendor for testing by the end of 2022.
In 2018, an inventory of the Durham Police Department found it had 1,711 untested sexual assault kits. Some of the cases went back as far as the 1980s.
These kits include a collection of evidence from the incident, including DNA evidence.
Since then, Durham police have been working with the state’s crime lab to clear this backlog. On Friday, Durham police told CBS 17 that more than 900 of the sexual assault kits from the backlog have been tested, more than 500 are in the process of getting tested and there are 160 they are waiting to send off to a vendor to get tested.
Out of the kits that have been tested, Vaughan said they got 92 hits on the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
“That means, the DNA profile that came from the sexual assault kit, matches to a person, or a case (that) has a DNA profile,” Lt. Stephen Vaughan said, with the Durham Police Department.
Lt. Vaughan said this has helped them either arrest or identify at least 23 suspects in the last three years.
“Some of them have three or more cases they are associated with,” Lt. Vaughan said.
This week, two men were convicted in two separate sexual assault cases in Durham County.
Carlos Dominguez-Aguiar pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree rape and one count of first-degree burglary for breaking into the victim’s home and sexually assaulting her at knifepoint on May 31, 2015. He was sentenced on Monday to 16 to 24.25 years in prison.
Timothy Rorie pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree rape, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of first-degree kidnapping and one count of sexual battery for breaking into a victim’s home and sexually assaulting her on Sept. 8, 2005. He was sentenced to bwteen 12 and nearly 16 years in prison.
These two arrests were made after two sexual assault kits were recently sent to a vendor for testing, and the DNA evidence from the kits matched the two suspects.
As the Durham Police Department waits for the hundreds of other kits to be tested, Lt. Vaughan said they still have a lot of work to do when it comes to investigating these cases.
He said the $1 million grant from the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative helped Durham police employ more investigators, a victim advocate and a prosecutor for the Durham County District Attorney’s Office.
“We didn’t need the funding for testing, we work with the state crime lab, who had their own grants and monies funded for outsourcing,” Lt. Vaughan said. “Our thing was, ‘how are we going to deal with this number of cases coming in,’ and ‘how are we going to make sure we have a victim-centered approach?’”
Lt. Vaughan said he wants the public to know they are doing what they can to solve these cases and bring justice to the victims.
“The biggest thing I want to tell the public is we’re always going to be there for these cases,” Lt. Vaughan said. “There’s always going to be someone watching, to make sure we don’t miss any information so we can bring them in the criminal system, and hopefully bring justice to that victim.”
Since 2019, the Durham County District Attorney’s office said they have been able to convict seven individuals in connection with 10 sexual assaults.