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Clearing Maricopa County's rape kit backlog continues

Posted at 7:43 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 21:49:29-05

CHANDLER, AZ — Officials with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office have indicted 18 people accused of sexual assault in the last few years. The charges stem from new evidence brought on by rape kits that were left untested.

"It's amazing when you're able to call up somebody whose sexual assault happened years ago and give them the news that the person is off the street," said Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor that oversees the grants used to fund testing.

According to MCAO, the office has received more than $6 million in grants since 2015. The money has been used for training, testing of 4,500 kits, and more resources for rape victims.

As ABC15 previously reported, thousands of rape kits were left sitting in evidence rooms and, in turn, delayed justice for victims.

Then, in 2016, Gov. Doug Ducey addressed the issue during his State of the State address and promised to make sure the kits got tested.

At the time, there were about 6,000 untested kits. Now, new policies are supposed to keep backlogs from forming.

"Here in Chandler, we had all of our kits testing three to four years ago," said Ashley Nolan, a Special Victims Unit detective with Chandler Police Department.

"It's important, because then this information goes to a crime lab where we can determine if there's any biological evidence that can be obtained where we can identify a perpetrator and also corroborate the victim's statements," she added.

One of the cases was solved thanks to testing old kits, helping solve a case from 35 years ago.

That's when Ronda Guzman was sexually assaulted. For years, she didn't know who attacked her.

However, thanks to testing the old kits, police were able to identify the suspect.

"It kind of blows your mind after all these years, that they can take a case and turn it around," said Guzman.

She said she had seen similar technology advance over the years and hoped something like this would happen to her case.

"It helps. It helps a lot," she said.