DNA testing of Virginia’s rape kit backlog leads to ‘hits’ in Va. Beach, Fairfax

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WAVY) — The testing of Virginia’s rape kit backlog has led to 44 DNA ‘hits,’ according to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.

“For perpetrators out there, they need to know their Commonwealth understands how serious a crime sexual assault is, and we will be relentless in pursuing justice,” Herring said Thursday.

Virginia is in the middle of a $3.4 million program to eliminate what Herring calls a backlog of untested sexual assault kits statewide, he said. So far, 950 kits have been sent off to the state lab, with results on 415 kits. Of those, there have been 44 matches with people in a DNA database, Herring said.

“If there is a match, that means that the DNA has been identified with someone who is in that system and a potential perpetrator could be identified,” he said.

Sequoia Owen sees firsthand what it’s like for victims of sexual assault to go through the process of a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK). She accompanies victims in her work with YWCA South Hampton Roads.

“Being able to be notified and say, ‘Hey, we’ve gotten a hit,’ brings up a whole dredge of emotion that the victim may not be ready for,” she said.

Some victims may want to put the experience completely behind them, while others may find hope in a positive DNA hit, Owen said.

“I think that news brings the reality to the public, saying sexual assault is a massive thing,” she said.

All 44 ‘hits’ have come from Virginia Beach and Fairfax County. The first group of tests to be sent to the lab came from those two cities because they are the two largest jurisdictions, according to Herring. The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorneys Office said no arrests or prosecutions have come from these recent hits, but the office plans to review cases as they come in.

Attorney General Herring said about 100 kits from Chesapeake will be headed for testing in the next few days.