Testing of 100K backlogged rape kits across US leads to 1,000 arrests

Efforts to clear a nationwide backlog of untested rape kits going back months, years and, in some cases, decades has led to more than 1,000 arrests and hundreds of convictions, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance has provided $38 million in funding to jurisdictions in 20 states, leading to 186 arrests and 64 convictions since 2015.

“Testing every rape kit is our best practice and our moral imperative – both to ensure survivors receive the support and action they deserve and to ensure that these backlogs never happen again,” Vance said Tuesday at a news conference to announce the results of the program.

More than 55,000 rape kits that have languished over time have been tested and the backlogs in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, and Oregon have been eliminated or nearly eliminated, he said.

At the same time the Justice Department has funded a program that has sent another nearly 45,000 rape kits to labs nationwide, leading to about 900 prosecutions and 498 convictions, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Justice Department’s initiative has provided $154 million in funding for the testing of backlogged rape kits over three years, according to the AP.

Money from the DA has enabled the Tucson Police Department to send for testing 1,400 rape kits that had been collected but never submitted to the crime lab.

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Of those kits, three hit on the DNA profile of a man named Nathan Loebe, Vance said. The DNA from these kits also connected Loebe, 38, to cold cases in Massachusetts and Colorado.

Mug shot for Nathan Loebe, convicted of serial rape last month in Arizona. 

Mug shot for Nathan Loebe, convicted of serial rape last month in Arizona.  (Arizona Department of Justice )

“Tucson Police initiated a full-scale investigation into these assaults and discovered that, for years, Nathan Loebe had impersonated Brian Bonsall, an actor on the popular sitcom Family Ties, to assault women he met on online dating sites,” the DA said.

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One of Loebe’s victims, speaking at the news conference Tuesday, said having her kit "finally tested was a catalyst for hope," according to ABC News.

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Loebe was found guilty in February in Arizona of 12 counts of sexual assault, five counts of kidnapping, three counts of stalking, and one count of attempted sexual assault. He faces sentencing next month.