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Decades-old unsolved sex crimes uncovered by rape kits

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Unsolved sexual assault crimes stemming back to the 80’s are under investigation due to the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.

More than 8,000 sexual assault DNA kits stemming back to the 1980's sat untested in Southern Nevada for decades largely due to a lack of funds to test them, according to the Rape Crisis Center. In 2015, The sexual assault kit initiative began and since then that number has decreased to about 4,000 untested kits.

RELATED | Rape kit backlog tests may lead investigators to sex offenders

On Monday morning, the Rape Crisis Center held a panel open to the public featuring representatives from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the District Attorney’s office and researchers from UNLV to bring awareness to what the initiative is doing.

According to LVMPD, prior to this initiative, they only had enough resources to test about 100 kits per year. As a result, thousands of people were left with no answers. LVMPD says that multiple grants totaling around $7 million were designated as temporary funding.

The district attorney's office says they’re are currently working on 16 cases from these results; one of them stemming back from 1997. Although they have enough funding to test the backlogged kits, LVMPD says there needs to be a permanent source of funding to keep the program current.

"This is a very complex issue where we are dealing with both, trying to ensure that we test all the kits that weren't ever subject to DNA testing before as well as ensuring we have the appropriate resources to move forward and stay current in all the kits that are being tested today," said Kimberly Murga, Director of Laboratory services, LVMPD.

Assembly Bill 97 was passed last year and it requires sexual assault kits to be submitted to a forensics lab within 30 days of the test. It also made way for a Nevada-wide sexual assault kit tracking program that’s set to be put in place by 2021.

LVMPD plans to complete the approximately 4,000 untested kits by next year.

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