TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Pima County Attorney's Office has filed its first indictment following the first round of testing a backlog of 2,000 untested sexual assault kits in Tucson.
More than a million dollars in gr ant money paid for the office to partner with the Tucson Police Department to process approximately 1,200 rape kits. Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall said close to 400 kits have been tested so far, with 61 of those connecting to someone in a national database.
"It takes detective work and we're going to go out and try to put cases together for prosecution," she said.
The first case is Nathan Loebe. He was arrested in Kentucky and waiting to be extradited, according to LaWall. She said evidence in some of the recently tested kits connected him to nearly a dozen counts of sexual assault in Tucson dating back to 2002.
Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said there's no telling what would have happened if the kits were tested sooner, because every case is unique. He stressed that individuals who do not know their attacker become priority for testing.
He said the department's own crime lab is constantly busy and this gr ant money has allowed them to outsource the testing to speed up the process.
"We're really helping bring about justice for a lot of victims of sexual assault both locally and beyond," he said. "We're seeing some really exciting results."
Even if a kit connects to someone in the DNA database, the individual who needed the kit in the first place has to work with investigators to press charges.
"The criminal justice system is completely dependent upon victims and witnesses to testify," said LaWall.
That's where a detective from TPD and an advocate from PCAO come into the process. They are the ones focused on finding the survivors of these assaults. In some cases they are bringing up a traumatic experience that an individual's own family may not know about, according to LaWall.
"As shocked as they're going to be by someone knocking on their door and saying 'You know that sexual assault that happened five years ago? We know who did it and we want you to participate.' I think they're going to be very willing to do so," she said.
Magnus said the TPD is working to find other gr ants to pay for future tests, because the cost of just one kit could be more than $2,000. He said the department will continue to share the high price for testing, certified staff and overall work hours associated with this kind of work with the city's elected leaders.
"People expect this kind of testing and, really, we need it in the interest of justice," said Magnus.
Anyone who thinks their rape kit is untested or searching for closure about their case is asked to call Detective Wilson at (520) 589-8971 or they can reach out anonymously through 88-CRIME (520) 882-7463
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