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  • Carolina Journal Staff

NC clears decades-long backlog of untested rape kits


Attorney General Josh Stein announced Tuesday that the state’s decades-long backlog of untested rape kits is finally cleared. Local law enforcement agencies, state lawmakers, the Department of Justice, and State Crime Lab have been focused on the backlog for several years. Now, 11,841 kits have been tested, leading to DNA matches and more than 100 arrests.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed the Survivor Act, which provided money to address the more than 16,000 shelved tests, some of which dated back to the 1990s.


“At every step we are sending clear messages to victims that we support you and we will do everything we can to deliver justice on your behalf,” Stein said Tuesday in a press conference. “To offenders, no matter how long ago it occurred, we will hold you accountable.”

The backlog has been a bad mark on the state dating back to the time when Gov. Roy Cooper served as the state’s attorney general for 16 years. North Carolina had one of the worst backlogs in the nation, according to advocacy group End the Backlog, which works on legislative reform and victims’ rights.


In 2017, the state legislature passed a law requiring every law enforcement agency in North Carolina to report the number of untested kits it has in its custody to the State Crime Lab. The NCDOJ compiled the findings and in 2018 reported to lawmakers that there were 15,160 untested sexual assault kits in North Carolina in the custody of local law enforcement agencies.


The resulting legislation provided money for addressing the backlog and funding for the State Crime Lab to hire more forensic scientists. The budget containing that funding was vetoed by Cooper in 2019.


End the Backlog now reports that the state has one of the smallest backlogs.


North Carolina’s rape kit backlog made national news after the abduction and murder of Lumberton 13-year-old, Hania Noelia Aguilar. The suspect in her murder was tied to another rape, but the kit from that crime had not been tested.


The issue also was a focus of Stein’s race for his current job as attorney general. In 2020, he used an ad against his Republican opponent, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill that featured Juliette Grimmett, a sexual assault victim policy strategist at the NC Justice Department, saying “When I learned that Jim O’Neill left 1,500 rape kits on a shelf leaving rapists on the streets, I had to speak out.”


Facing a possible indictment over the ad for violating a 1931 law that bars knowingly lying in a political ad, Stein sued to get the law overturned as unconstitutional. O’Neill filed a complaint against Stein over the ad. In April 2023, Stein filed to withdraw a motion for a summary judgment. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman agreed with Stein’s lawyers that the case was “moot” and could be “appropriately dismissed.”


Stein is now the Democratic nominee for governor, facing current Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican.


The new rounds of testing have yielded 2,702 matches for offenders who were already in the DOJ’s database for other crimes. Law enforcement has also made 114 arrests based on the testing results, according to the Department of Justice media reports.



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