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story.lead_photo.caption Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in St. Louis. (Associated Press file photo)

The Missouri Attorney General's office has received a $2 million federal grant to continue testing the state's backlog of untested sexual assault kits.

The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance grant of $2 million will allow for the inventory of untested kits at police departments and hospitals to be updated — to include kits collected from April 2018 to April 2020 — get an estimated 900 more untested kits to a private lab in Virginia for testing, and dedicate more personnel to help law enforcement and prosecutors investigate and prosecute suspect DNA matches and any resulting cases, Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office announced last week.

"The office will continue to use a private lab for testing so as not to overwhelm the Missouri State Highway Patrol, as well as host regional shipping events across the state to gather those kits," according to the news release.

The state previously received a $2.8 million grant from the DOJ to help test 1,250 untested sexual assault evidence kits.

Schmitt said the money actually enabled 1,500 kits to be tested, collected by police departments in regions around the state.

Chris Nuelle, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said Monday there had been 4,455 untested reported kits — which means "kits that have not been tested but have an accompanying police report."

Taking out the 1,500 kits tested through the first DOJ grant, Nuelle said, "that leaves 2,955 left to be tested."

He said the attorney general's office would seek additional grants for more testing beyond the second DOJ award.

"Kits that are untested but do not have accompanying police reports or kits that have been previously tested either will not be tested out of respect for victims or will be tested after the backlog is completed," he added.

Nuelle said the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected the pace of work at the lab in Virginia doing the testing.

 

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