Few rape kits tested in Colorado; Police say it's not necessary, victims think otherwise

Victims want DNA put into national database

DENVER - Colorado police departments are collecting hundreds of rape kits, but a CALL7 Investigation found many of those are not tested. And experts and victims tell us that is a problem because those kits may allow police to identify serial rapists by putting any DNA into a national database.

Kelly Binder says she was drugged and raped two years ago by a man she met at a bar in downtown Denver. She is upset police didn't test her rape kit because she is concerned her attacker could still be raping other people.

"He physically restrained me," Binder said.  "And while he was raping me, I said 'No.  I don't know you. I don't want to do this.'"

Within hours of the assault, Binder contacted the Denver Police Department. The officer recommended she go to the hospital for a rape kit.

"You're lying on this white sheet under these bright lights.  Every intimate part, they're taking photographs, and pulling hair out of your head," Binder said.

She says the four-hour process felt like a second assault.

"The experience was just a nightmare," she said.

Her rape kit was given to police. But just a few weeks later, Binder says the DPD detective assigned to her case told her it would be too hard to prove that she didn't give consent. She says the detective told her that her rape kit would not be tested to see if her attacker had raped anyone else.

"I was raped. This man raped me. And they did nothing, they did nothing at all," Binder said.

The CALL7 Investigators found hundreds of others rape kits remain on the shelf, untested. Since 2008, DPD has received 1,064 rape kits, but 44 percent of those kits have never been tested.

"A lot of rape kits we end up doing are just to document the trauma and everything else that occurred," Denver Police Cmdr. Ronald Saunier said.

Saunier said many rape kits don't need to be tested. Detectives evaluate on a case by case basis whether testing the kit would benefit the case.

According to Saunier, DPD detectives may request rape kits be tested when the suspect is unknown, but rarely test kits in cases of date rape or domestic sexual assault.

"No, we don't test 100 percent of the cases. Some of those we don't want to test or don't need to test," Saunier said.

While Denver Police perform basic screening on more than half of their kits, DPD does not know how many rape kits have been DNA tested even though DPD uses its own on-site crime lab. DNA testing is a critical piece of the process that can connect a suspect to other cases in CODIS, the national DNA database used by law enforcement.

Saunier said he didn't think it was necessary for the department to track how many rape kits have been DNA tested.

While DPD has its own crime lab, the Fort Collins Police Department sends its rape kits to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for testing.

Since 2007, Fort Collins has collected 243 rape kits. But the CALL7 Investigators found 72 percent of those rape kits were not tested.

Capt. Don Vagge said in cases where the primary question is if the victim consented, those kits are not tested. According to Vagge, those rape kits aren't even eligible to be tested and uploaded into the national DNA database.

"If the issue is consent, finding DNA is not going to help," Vagge said.  

"But couldn't it help solve other crimes?" CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon asked.

"The person that was involved in the sexual contact, their DNA does not get loaded into CODIS," Vagge said repeatedly throughout the interview.

But Rabon found that's not true. CBI spokesperson Susan Medina said if local agencies send a kit, CBI will test it and enter it into the database.

"That person could be connected to other cases," Medina said.

It takes an average of six to nine months for CBI to process rape kits. But it's a service the agency provides free of charge, to help local police departments solve crimes.

"We're all seeking justice," Medina said.

But the CALL7 Investigators repeatedly found local law enforcement agencies send very few kits.

"We don't hold back from sending them. We just don't want to unnecessarily bog down the system at CBI," said Mark Techmeyer, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, said.

During the last five years, Jefferson County collected 117 rape kits. But we found, 64 percent of its rape kits have not been tested.

"To send them kits that have absolutely no use whatsoever would be illogical," Techmeyer said, claiming that victims know their kits may not be tested.

Karen Moldovan with the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault said departments need to do a better job testing rape evidence. 

"Those numbers, they're incredibly frustrating to hear about," Moldovan said.

Saunier said DPD is doing the best it can. But if a victim believes their rape kit was not tested and should be, Saunier encourages them to contact DPD.

"If there's a rapist out there and he's a serial rapist, I want to do everything in my power to try to catch him. But I also realize that I don't have unlimited resources," Saunier said.

But Moldovan sees the rape kits as an opportunity to connect criminals to crimes and find justice for rape survivors.

"Somebody who may have assaulted a friend or a loved one may also have sexually assaulted strangers. So by having this evidence, it can be really helpful in piecing cases together and connecting offenders to other cases," Moldovan said.

Binder feels like she's been victimized twice -- once by her attacker, and again by the system that was supposed to protect her.

"The fact that my rape kit test, was never submitted into the system, just allows another predator to go free, to do this again to somebody else," Binder said.

None of the departments interviewed for this story could say how many total rape kits were being held in storage, or how many total had been tested.

CALL7 Investigators found several states and large cities have laws that require all rape kits to be tested and the U.S. Department of Justice is working on rules that will direct jurisdictions on the best practices for testing those rape kits.