NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- 13News Now has learned exclusively the first of thousands of rape kits -- which police did not send to labs for DNA testing -- will finally be examined.
After months of counting the rape kits sitting on shelves collecting dust in police departments, months of questioning officials about why they never sent the kits for DNA testing, and months of lobbying lawmakers to take action with our "#TestTheKits" campaign, we've just learned the Attorney General has finalized a contract to get the more than 2,000 kits tested.
The news means the cases of more than 2,000 women could be one step closer to being solved and more than 2,000 women will be one step closer to getting justice and closure.
"We are absolutely committed to seeing it through, and getting it done right," Attorney General Mark Herring told 13News Now in an exclusive interview.
They want to get it done right, because these kits could hold the keys to solving crimes like rape and sexual assault. In the backlog we uncovered are kits dating back to 1988. That's almost 30 years a victim has been waiting for answers and living in fear.
"This can really do so much to help keep our community safer, to help victims of sexual violence know that their perpetrator is brought to justice," Herring said.
Bode Cellmark Forensics in Northern Virginia will be testing the more than 2,000 sexual assault evidence kits. Also, the first kits to be tested are coming from right here in Hampton Roads, from the Virginia Beach Police Department. Those kits should begin to arrive at the lab in the next couple weeks, with results on the way in about six to eight weeks.
"It's really important that this be done thoughtfully and carefully, because this could be used as evidence in criminal cases," Herring explained.
The testing is funded through the $1.4 million grant the Attorney General's Office secured in September, just a couple months after our initial investigation.
"I think the stories about the untested kits and the public awareness helped really bring this issue to the forefront and was a big help in getting programs started to provide the resources," the Attorney General responded.
The use of those resources is now sending a message to the victims whose search for justice has gone on for far too long.
"They know that their Commonwealth understands how serious this is and that we stand with them," Herring added. "We're going to work and do everything we can to bring the perpetrators to justice, to get them behind bars and that we stand with them and are helping them get on a path of healing and recovery."
In case you're curious whether or not Bode Forensics has the right credentials for this massive undertaking, it is the same lab that helped clear the backlog of rape kits for the City of Detroit. In just that city alone, Bode helped process more than 4,000 kits.