More than 800 rape kits await testing in SC

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The state of South Carolina has 813 rape kits waiting to be tested. That figure comes from the S.C. Law Enforcement Division. 

7News recently reported on a man arrested for a sexual assault in Greenwood that happened two years ago. Warrants state a semen sample was used to identify the suspect. 

Damon Shamar Duncan is accused of breaking into a stranger’s home, stealing money from her purse, and sexually assaulting her. A rape kit was used to gather evidence. 

“It was collected by a nurse, placed in the sample kit and then it was sealed, and then it was sent to the laboratory at SLED,” said Greenwood Police Department public information officer Jonathan Link.

It took more than two years to find a match, or a “hit.” In that time, Duncan was arrested three more times, twice for burglary and once for domestic violence. 

Thom Berry, a spokesman with SLED, said the time it takes to test a kit varies based on the sample.

Berry provided a timeline of the testing in Duncan’s case.

The serology testing began seven months after SLED received evidence from Greenwood Police Department. It took another 21 months to complete the DNA casework report, which was when the sample was ready to be run in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System or CODIS. 

Within two weeks, the system found a match with Duncan, who was arrested a few days later. 

SLED operates the only full-service forensic laboratory in the state, and its services are available to all South Carolina law enforcement agencies without charge. 

“In order to get qualified people to analyze that sort of evidence and have it hold up in a court of law, we have to rely on them to do that,” Link said. 

More than 7,800 DNA cases are backlogged at the SLED lab now, and about half of them are from nonviolent crimes. For the more than 800 rape kits waiting to be tested and the 277 currently being tested, it is possible others haven’t even made it to the lab. 

“We live in one of the eight states that still hasn’t passed federal or state legislation mandating that all kits be tested,” said Shauna Galloway-Williams, executive director of the Julie Valentine Center. 

She says now it’s now up to investigators to send kits to be tested. 

Berry said SLED prioritizes violent crimes for forensic analysis. He also said the South Carolina General Assembly allocated $54 million earlier this year to replace the current lab, which opened in 1989. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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