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Sterling, Lee County law enforcement have few untested rape kits

Lately, backlogs of untested rape kits have been making headlines. About 400,000 kits sit untested in police evidence rooms nationwide, according to various reports.

Locally and statewide, though, that isn’t the case, thanks largely to a 2010 law that requires Illinois law enforcement agencies send all rape kits to the State Police Crime Lab for testing, so that the results can be added to the FBI’s DNA database.

All local agencies have complied.

Also a requirement of the law: Any rape kits taken before 2010, untested for any reason, must be sent to the crime lab.

The Ogle and Whiteside County sheriff’s departments and Dixon and Rock Falls police complied with that section, too.

The Sterling police and Lee County Sheriff’s departments, though, do still have some untested rape kits: Sterling has eight; Lee County has 20, dating back to the late ‘90s.

The county’s 20 kits all are from cases in which it was deemed that testing wasn’t required, said Lee County Deputy Chief Dave Glessner, adding that he wasn’t aware of the second part of the law, but will look into it.

Arrests were made in cases involving seven of the kits; two involve cases where people refused to proceed with the investigation; two were part of a death investigation and taken at autopsy; and one kit was taken but the accusation was found to be false.

The eight remaining kits are related to cases in which there are known suspects, but because there was not enough evidence to prove nonconsent, the state’s attorney didn’t file charges.

“They’ve admitted to the sex, so if you send the kit in, you prove they have had sex, but you haven’t proved the element of the assault,” Glessner said.

Sterling Police Chief Ron Potthoff said he, too, was unclear on the second part of the law.

Like Lee County, the kits in his department are evidence in cases that have since been closed.

After checking with the crime lab, he said he soon would send the kits to the lab for testing anyway.

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