SOUTH BEND — For years, a massive backlog of sexual assault kits from Indiana’s counties has sat untested for unknown reasons — and St. Joseph County has nearly 500, which is the most in the state.
That’s according to results of a recent state police audit that some local officials and advocates find troubling, arguing that justice for rape accusers has been put on hold.
But questions about why it happened remain unanswered, with local and state officials vowing to eventually get to the bottom of the problem.
The audit, conducted at the behest of state senators, found the county has 478 kits that have inexplicably not been tested at state police labs.
Elkhart County, meanwhile, has 79 such kits, while LaPorte County has 20 and Marshall County has 10. Those figures do not include kits that the state has reasons for not testing, such as false rape reports and court rulings that found assaults didn’t happen.
The county’s results are part of a larger pattern of kits from across the state being untested.
Kits include forensic evidence of alleged rape victims, such as fingernail scrapings, clothing and swabs collected from body parts. Evidence is gathered from exams that usually last a few hours.
St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter was attending a conference outside the area Tuesday and didn’t return a call seeking comment about how so many cases managed to go untested and why the issue wasn’t exposed sooner.