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Gov. Beshear: KSP Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Investigative Team expands

In News, State by OC Monitor Staff

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Today, Gov. Andy Beshear and Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey announced that an additional $849,491 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice has been awarded to expand the Kentucky State Police Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Investigative Team through an additional investigator who will focus their efforts on the Louisville-Jefferson County region.

The KSP SAKI investigative team was originally formed in July 2021 after DOJ awarded $1.5 million to the commonwealth to leverage existing investigative resources within the KSP Crime Lab by transitioning three trained investigators and a criminal intelligence analyst from the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General to KSP.

“Every dollar our state is awarded is one step forward in the fight to end violent crime and sexual assault,” said Beshear. “As your Governor, protecting Kentuckians and promoting justice across our commonwealth is a top priority. By expanding the SAKI investigative team and strengthening their important work of helping to identify and hold these offenders accountable, we are creating a better, safer Kentucky.”

Since the formation of the KSP SAKI investigative team, investigators have been able to access information and evidence that was collected at the time of the crime as well as new sources of information to help bring offenders to justice.

The bulk of the current SAKI inventory originated in the Louisville Metro area. Therefore, the new investigator will reopen and investigate cases connected through the Combined DNA Index System and the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program hits, and work with prosecutors to obtain new charges when possible. Additionally, this funding will support the hiring of one part-time administrative staff member to facilitate investigations by providing support to the KSP SAKI investigative team. The administrative staff member will update records, including those regarding testing outcomes, facilitate victim notifications using the established protocol with the local sexual assault service provider and obtain archived cases initially investigated by the Louisville Metro Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies.

“By expanding the KSP SAKI investigative team to focus more strongly on the Louisville area, which has the largest number of kits identified, we can begin to bring justice to victims and strengthen public safety within Kentucky,” said Harvey. “Additionally, this project further advances the priorities of the Department of Justice as it is another step toward enhancing public trust between law enforcement and their communities.”

This award also provides funding for the KSP Forensic Lab to complete DNA and other forensic analyses on sexual assault kits from approximately 500 historical cases from the Phase III inventory, which consists of identified SAKI-eligible sexual assaults and sexually-motivated homicides occurring from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

“The types of crimes investigated utilizing SAKI resources are some of the most personal violations conceivable,” said KSP Detective Janet Barnett. “Having additional resources available to serve victims and assist our law enforcement partners will bolster this undertaking. It is the goal of the SAKI investigative team to leverage all assets to bring closure to victims and strengthen the commonwealth’s efforts in this endeavor.”

The passage of the Safe Act in 2016 guaranteed the submission of all Sexual Assault Forensic Exam, or SAFE, kits, required law enforcement to receive training to conduct victim-centered sexual assault investigations and established timelines for testing kits.

As attorney general, Beshear made ending the state’s SAFE kit backlog and seeking justice for victims of sexual assault top priorities for his office.

In 2016, Beshear provided $4.5 million in settlement money to lawmakers to fund requested KSP crime lab upgrades to help end the SAFE kit backlog.

Beshear provided an additional $1 million from the settlement to aid law enforcement and prosecutors in conducting victim-centered investigations and prosecuting sexual assault offenders.

In January 2017, Beshear created a Survivors Council to advise and assist his office on matters related to victims of crime. Its purpose was to ensure office efforts are victim-centered, effective and responsive to the needs of diverse victims.

In 2018, Beshear’s Office of the Attorney General hired a victim advocate, investigator, prosecutor and a SAKI coordinator and established a Cold Case Unit after receipt of a grant for nearly $3 million. The original funds also allowed for the testing of an additional more-than-1,400 SAFE kits not previously identified, the hiring of a cold case investigator for KSP, a University of Louisville backlog research project and the formation of a SAKI task force.

In 2019, then-Attorney General Beshear announced that his office had been awarded a $1.4 million federal grant to expand its Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit and further investigate and prosecute sexual assault cold cases, many of which resulted from the state’s SAFE kit backlog discovered in 2015.

Since the Cold Case Unit was established, local law enforcement and prosecutors have secured statewide indictments linked to the SAFE kit backlog, including 10 secured during Beshear’s term as attorney general. Four of the indictments from Beshear’s office have been connected to two serial offenders.

Since taking office, Beshear has awarded more than $60 million in grant funding to victim service agencies across the commonwealth.

Between February and December 2021, Gov. Beshear awarded more than $4 million in grant funding to fight sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and dating violence. The grant program supports law enforcement, prosecution, judicial strategies and victim services.

As part of the ongoing efforts of the Beshear-Coleman administration to protect victims of sexual assault, Beshear signed HB 310, sponsored by Sen. Morgan McGarvey, of Jefferson County. HB 310 allows a commonwealth attorney to file a petition for an involuntary commitment for violent offenders who are incompetent to stand trial and would not benefit from additional treatment, but who are deemed a danger to themselves or others. By signing this bill, the Governor closed a gap in state law that allowed some defendants to avoid both prison time and mental health treatment.

If you are a victim, or know someone who is a victim of sexual violence, no matter when the violence took place, please contact one of Kentucky’s 13 programs supporting all survivors of sexual assault.

For more information please visit, Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs or contact one of KSP’s post locations.

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