Oregon State Police investigators have finally finished processing more than 5,000 DNA samples collected from victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault.
The backlog of Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence kits — often referred to as rape kits — languished in government storerooms for years, even decades, provoking a scandal when the truth emerged in 2015.
In response, the state legislature allocated funding for additional staff at the state police crime lab, and District Attorney Rod Underhill applied for and received a $2 million grant to test kits in Multnomah, Marion and Lane counties, which comprised about half the backlog.
The passage in 2016 of Senate Bill 1571, known as "Melissa's Law," requires state police to test all kits, with an exception for kits where the victim is unknown or anonymous.
Some of the kits gathered from police agencies across the state were sent to a private lab in Utah for testing, and the end to the backlog was announced Wednesday, Oct. 31. The "DNA fingerprints" were also added to an FBI database known as CODIS.
"This project is the perfect example of what can happen when diverse stakeholders work together to right a wrong," Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. "Although success cannot come overnight, key investments in funding and the steady work of our State Police Forensic Scientists show that success is achievable."
The testing resulted in at least five new indictments in Multnomah County, despite claims by police authorities that many of the kits were dead-ends or redundant.
Multnomah County prosecutors announced on Wednesday the guilty verdict of a man whose DNA matched a newly-tested kit. The kit was created after a woman was raped by a stranger in Tom McCall Waterfront Park on June 14, 1996.
Jihad "Julius" Eldeen Moore Jr. is now behind bars — convicted of two counts of first-degree rape and one count of sodomy. Moore wasn't hard to find: He had been living in Bud Clark Commons for the past four years prior to his arrest in February.
Prosecutors wrote that Moore admitted to the crime after signing a waiver of his Miranda Rights during a taped interview.
"He said he thought the victim was an easy target and remembered her saying no," according to court documents.
The survivor, 26 at the time, immediately alerted police and DNA samples were collected at the hospital later that day. Yet a suspect was never identified, and police deemed the matter a cold case.
The female survivor, who has requested complete privacy, said in a statement that "I never thought this day would come."
"It would have been better for everyone had the kit been tested years ago," she said. "It is hard to relive this so many years later, but justice is finally served."
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