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Progress In Testing Sexual Assault Kits, But State Budget Battle Could Have An Impact

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (podium) speaks Monday in Asheville

More than 400 untested sexual assault kits in the possession of the Asheville police department have been tested at the state crime lab, after state investigators last year determined there were around 15-thousand untested kits in various law enforcement agencies across North Carolina.  

The kits contain DNA taken from the bodies and clothes of victims shortly after they’ve been sexual assaulted.  North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein says the large backlog of untested kits means a lot of victims have not seen justice.  “We know testing these kits and analyzing the DNA evidence can breathe new life into cold cases," Stein said Monday at a press conference in Asheville.  "We’ve seen it happen all across North Carolina.”

The 414 untested kits the Asheville police department sent to the state crime lab in recent months are among the most any one law enforcement agency has cleared according to Stein.  Each kit costs about $700 to get tested, and Stein says it will take up to $10 million to clear the whole backlog.  Funding to do so could get caught up in the state budget standoff brewing in Raleigh however.  “I want to thank the state house and Governor Cooper.  They both put $6 million into their budget.  The state senate put in $3 million," Stein noted.  "They’re in conference negotiations right now, and my hope is that we will get sufficient funding to test all the kits.”

The governor and Republican leaders in the General Assembly are far apart in negotiations right now with the main sticking point being Medicaid expansion.  The state’s fiscal year when a new budget needs to be in place starts this Monday July 1st.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.