Nearly 90 percent of Missouri's backlogged rape kits have not been tested, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced last week, but local authorities say the numbers don't tell the whole story for their departments.
Only 830 of about 7,000 total kits in the backlog were previously tested, Schmitt said.
Rape kits are DNA samplings and other evidence secured via medical procedures immediately after an attack, to be used by law enforcement to convict rapists, the Associated Press reported.
There were 146 untested kits reported in Cole County, according to the attorney general's report. There were five unreported test kits.
A "reported" untested kit means the victim has agreed to participate in the criminal justice system by filing a police report and initiating a criminal investigation, according to the attorney general's report. An "unreported" untested kit means the victim has not filed a police report. It is a national best practice to not test unreported kits in keeping with victims' wishes.
The majority of victims in Cole County — 67.5 percent — were women, and the average age of the victim was 22.
The Jefferson City Police Department had 55 reported untested kits and two unreported untested kits.
JCPD Chief Roger Schroeder said the department looked at kits from mid-2010 to February 2018.
"Although I respect the reasons for the expressed concern and understand the implications, I was satisfied that, in each case, the reason or reasons for the lack of submission was valid," Schroeder said. "There was no indication the lack of submissions was the result of negligence, an inadequate investigation or complacency."
Schroeder said the reasons for the department choosing to retain possession of kits included the alleged victim being determined to be untruthful about what actually occurred.
"Many times, the alleged victim subsequently admits the sexual contact was consensual," Schroeder said. "Sometimes, the alleged victim disappears or refuses to meet with detectives. There are also occasions where the suspect is successfully prosecuted without the need to submit the S.A.F.E. kit. We also have a certain percentage of cases in which the alleged victim was so intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, he or she can't sufficiently recall the events necessary to prosecute the case."
The Cole County Sheriff's Department had 19 reported untested kits and no unreported untested kits.
"Reasons for some of the untested kits varied, including where a suspect committed suicide, the victim declined to prosecute, and in one case where the date between when the crime occurred and when it was finally reported made the testing ineffective," Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said. "We have not had a problem with filing charges with the Cole County Prosecutor's Office if we feel a rape or sexual assault case meets the merits. We also haven't had issues with getting rape kit information back from the Missouri Highway Patrol lab."
There were also 68 reported untested kits from Missouri Department of Corrections facilities in Cole County and no unreported kits, according to the attorney general's report.
There were four reported untested kits from the Lincoln University Police Department with no unreported kits.
If a person goes to a hospital emergency room and says they have been the victim of rape, then they must be tested, Wheeler noted.
The attorney general's report showed no reported untested kits at Capital Region Medical Center or St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City. There were two unreported untested kits at St. Mary's and one unreported untested kit at CRMC.
The attorney general's office began to track untested rape kits in 2017, completing a detailed inventory of kits after receiving help from a federal grant, the Associated Press reported. The office estimates it has enough grant money to test at least 1,250 kits.