Rapid DNA demonstration

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky State Police crime lab is experimenting with new technology that could be the key to preventing another backlog of unsolved rape cases in the commonwealth.

The system, called Rapid DNA, could help identify rape suspects in just hours instead of days. The delay in processing DNA evidence, which can sometimes be months, can result in sexual assault cases going cold.

“Sometimes, the victims step out of the system, out of the process,” Lab Director Laura Sudkamp said. “Investigators, while we’re working one case, they get a whole bunch more cases placed on their desk.”

Sudkamp said the Rapid DNA system could be the answer. It can process a DNA profile within three hours.

“Our goal is to catch the rapist as early as possible — not just for expedience sake, but to make sure that someone else isn't victimized,” Justice Secretary John Tilley said.

The technology could prevent what happened in 2015 when the State Auditor uncovered a backlog of more than 3,000 untested rape kits.

Many were found languishing in police evidence rooms.

“We're trying to get the turnaround time down to get that victim some justice as quickly as possible,” Sudkamp said.

Right now, the technology, which is produced by the Colorado-based ANDE company, is still experimental. The results must be confirmed by traditional methods.

“This is not an easy thing to do,” ANDE Executive Jim Davis said. “Every other state in the union right now is looking at Kentucky to see how this goes.”

Annette Mattern, ANDE’s chief communications officer, said she has a personal stake in the success of Rapid DNA.

“As a survivor of a sexual assault, I want to thank all of you for doing this work,” she said. “It means so much to all of us who have been affected by this crime and for those who will never have to experience it because you took a bold step today.”

It will cost $3 million a year to keep the program going after the pilot is over.

Gov. Matt Bevin promised his support.

“To the extent that this does what I believe it has the ability to do, this will be a part of my next budget that will be presented next year,” Bevin said.

State Sen. Denise Harper Angel, who has sponsored a number of bills dealing with the testing of sexual assault kits, applauded the new technology.

“I am thrilled that Kentucky continues its commitment to provide swift justice of victims of sexual assault by becoming the first in the nation to use this technology,” Harper Angel said in a statement.

If all goes well, the results from Kentucky State Police crime lab will help the technology be accepted nationwide.

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I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.