Attorney General Andy Beshear is setting up a new unit in his office to investigate and prosecute sexual assault cold cases.
The state has tested thousands of old sexual assault examination kits since 2016, creating a need for the new unit to work with local and state officials to investigate and prosecute cases that have been on the books for a long time, Beshear said at a news conference Tuesday in his Capitol office.
“While we still have a lot of work to do, today’s announcement is a giant step forward in keeping our promises to victims, many who have been waiting years, even decades, for movement or closure on their cases,” Beshear said.
The unit is funded by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
It will be staffed, Beshear said, by professionals with decades of experience in law enforcement, prosecution and victim advocacy: program coordinator Casey Hendricks Aldridge of Louisville, victim advocate Molly B. Cassady of Louisville, investigator Brian Sherrard of Goshen and prosecutor Dana Todd of Frankfort.
The funding also will cover the cost to test about 1,500 remaining untested sexual assault forensic exam kits.
A 2016 state law requires the testing of all rape kits gathered by police. Thousands of kits had never been tested.
Beshear in 2016 provided $4.5 million in settlement money to lawmakers to fund state police crime lab upgrades and an additional $1 million from the settlement to aid police and prosecutors in investigations and prosecutions.
Kentucky secured funding to test 3,300 kits to reduce the backlog. Now, 3,173 backlogged kits have been tested.
As of Nov. 28, DNA testing produced 174 hits that need further investigation.