By Beth Dalbey
About 100 “serial rapists” have been identified since Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Kym Worthy began pushing state officials to begin processing the 11,000 rape kits found abandoned in a Detroit police warehouse in 2009.
The more than 100 serial rapists and 10 convicted rapists have been identified so far in DNA analysis from the rape kits. Some have moved on from Michigan to commit similar crimes in 23 other states, Worthy said.
Detroit is not alone in ignoring rape kites. Nationally as many as 400,000 go unprocessed each year.
Of the 11,000 kits discovered in the Detroit warehouse, about 1,600 kits, some of them dating back to the 1970s, have been processed, Worthy said at a press conference with “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” star Mariska Hargitay. Together, they announced proposed legislation that would set deadlines and other guidelines for processing rape kits and prevent such backlogs in the future.
"These rape kits in Michigan are over 25 years old," Worthy told reporters. "[We] Want to make sure we deal with the victims mercifully, honestly and genuinely."
Hargitay, who portrays Sgt. Olivia Benson on the weekly NBC television program that deals with sex crimes, said the sheer number of rape kits in Detroit and across the country that go unprocessed is “mind-blowing to me.”
Hargitaye said she assumed they were being routinely tested, as they are in her TV show.
"My head exploded,” she said. “We have the means to do it and DNA equals justice."
Fourteen convictions have resulted from what is being called the "Detroit Rape Kit Project."
Those convictions include DeShawn Starks, 23, who feigned stomach pains as he approached a woman returning to her Detroit Home, then robbed the woman at gunpoint and drove her to a wooded area, where he raped her.
The victim’s rape kit remained untested for a decade before Worthy put pressure on the Michigan State Police to process the kits. The findings linked Stark’s DNA to the case and another rape in 2003 in which the kit also remained in storage fofr 10 years.
In November 2013, Stark raped two more women as they were walking home from a family gathering.
He was convicted and sentenced 45-90 years in prison.In real life, Hargitay is a vocal advocate for the sex-crime victims. Her nonprofit group Joyful Heart Foundation works with victims of sex crimes, domestic violence and child abuse.
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