Durham gets $1 million to help with sexual assault cold cases

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham is getting a million-dollar federal grant to help clear the backlog of untested sexual assault kits. The city has the second-largest backlog in the state.

The grant was approve at Monday's City Council meeting.

Some of these test kits haves have been sitting on shelves for decades. One dates back to 1988.

"It was a little disheartening," said Lt. Stephen Vaughan.

Durham PD is putting together a comprehensive team to tackle the problem and also setting out to help survivors cope and put them on a path toward justice.

"Your cases were not forgotten," Vaughan said to those left waiting.

There were more than 1,700 untested kits at the height of the backlog.

The department is now regularly sending them off to the state lab.

The Department of Justice says:

  • 405 kits have been approved for testing
  • 270 kits are done being tested

A state official said there have been 75 hits in the DNA database for potential suspects.

"(It sends a) clear message to rapists that no matter how long ago you committed your crime, we are coming for you," said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

Durham is going to have two investigators working on cases. There will be an in-house victim's advocate as well as a dedicated prosecutor who can help with building a case if a victim feels ready to press charges.

"We leave it to them to make the decision how they want to move forward, because it's about them," Vaughan said. "We're staying very victim-centered and paying attention to the traumas that do occur, because they're still surviving through this."
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.