RALEIGH, N.C. — Nearly two years ago, a WRAL investigation found thousands of rape kits stacked on police department shelves. Today, that evidence still collects dust, but there are signs of change.
Unless there was a known suspect, the State Bureau of Investigation refused to analyze the DNA in the rape kits. Frustrated agents did not have the staff to work the cases. Rape survivors protested and petitioned. Lawmakers answered with money to hire more DNA analysts.
"We're making progress. We still have a lot to do," state Attorney General Roy Cooper said.
Although lab staffing is about the same, Cooper said new analysts will graduate in March. The SBI hopes a recent career fair will help fill even more positions with plans to triple the number of DNA analysts.
Agents have been reassigned to process the blood of every convicted felon in North Carolina. A change in the law will double the DNA database of felons from 40,000 to 80,000. Officials said the larger the database, the better the chances of matching DNA from crime scene to criminal.
Plus, for the first time in years, the SBI is taking evidence from rape cases with no suspect.
"We're asking local law enforcement in certain areas to look at your backlog. Tell us what cases you think might be fruitful and we're going to test them. Ultimately, we want to test all of them," Cooper said.
"Eventually, we'll get caught up to where we will work cases the same day," SBI agent Michael Budzynski said.
The SBI admits it may take months or even years to make a real dent in the unsolved cases.