Local News

Missing rape kits complicate work for Fayetteville cold case squad

Posted September 22, 2015 5:23 p.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2015 6:51 p.m. EDT

— Investigators were scrambling Tuesday night to find ways to solve hundreds of cold cases after Fayetteville police threw out more than 330 rape kits, along with the DNA evidence that could catch an assailant.

The rape kits, which were destroyed to free up space in the Fayetteville Police Department evidence room, pertained to cases that happened between 1995 and 2008.

It was clear during Monday’s press conference that Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock was upset. He told reporters that the rape kits in the evidence room were thrown away nearly ten years ago.

“I’m frustrated. I’m angry that truly…one person may not get justice,” Medlock said.

Deanne Gerdes operates Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County. She said it took courage for victims to come forward and complete rape kits, and now many of them are devastated.

“To find out that that evidence is now lost forever has quite an effect,” Gerdes said. “It could re-traumatize a victim.”

Lt. John Somerindyke, who runs the Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit, was the person who discovered that some kits were missing. He said that there are still more than 1,000 unsolved sexual assault cases on file with rape kits available. The plan is to use part of the $300,000 federal grant Fayetteville police recently received to check for DNA evidence in some of those cases.

“We’re still getting that money. We’re still going to review these hundreds of cases dating back to the 80s and even beyond that at some point,” Somerindyke said. “The goal is to get these kits that have not been tested up for DNA testing.”

Somerindyke said that the pool of potential suspects started growing in 2009 when all inmates where ordered by law to give DNA samples. He wants the victims whose kits where thrown out to know he's not giving up on solving their cases, either.

“I have a highly motivated cold case Sexual Assault Unit detective. Between him and me, we’re going to view every single one of these cases regardless of whether we have the kit or not, and we are going to make some arrests,” Somerindyke said.

On Monday, officials said investigators would reach out to victims and families to let them know of the destroyed evidence and plan to reopen cases they feel may be solved without DNA.