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La Crosse DA says rape kit backlog hasn’t affected county cases

Brad Williams

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Hundreds of rape cases in Wisconsin could be opened, or reopened, based on genetic information obtained from rape kits which had gone untested for years.

Wisconsin’s justice department was criticized for not moving quickly enough to perform the testing.

That, however, is not the case in La Crosse County.

“We haven’t had any cases helped by the recent testing,” La Crosse district attorney Tim Gruenke said. “We’ve been on top of that.

“When we need a sexual assault case tested, it’s been tested in a timely manner.”

Gruenke, however, noted there are valid reasons why kits would not be tested and that the state’s backlog was due, entirely, to neglect.

“I think,” Gruenke said, “it’s more likely that the kit wasn’t tested because, either, there’s no way to prove the case even if you know who the suspect is — because of other issues with the case — or the person had already plead to the case or the person has already identified by admitting they’re the one that was there.”

Untested rape kits became a campaign issue in the Wisconsin election for attorney general this year. New figures released show the state identified 560 DNA matches by analyzing evidence from sexual assault kits that had been left untested for years.

That’s more than double what was reported in early September, when about 1,270 old rape kits still needed review before DNA could be compared with national crime databases.

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel was in the middle of that issue. He lost his re-election race to Democrat Josh Kaul by a narrow margin — 1,304,579 to 1,286,834.