SLED releases new details about rape kit backlog after FOX Carolina investigation

After months of requests South Carolina's top law enforcement agency is releasing details about the backlog of untested rape kits in its crime lab...
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 2:26 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2023 at 2:28 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - After months of requests, South Carolina’s top law enforcement agency is providing information about the backlog of untested rape kits in its crime lab.

Earlier this year, FOX Carolina’s investigative team uncovered that the state was not complying with a law signed in 2020 requiring a statewide system for tracking rape kits to be implemented.

Although a few counties have their own DNA labs, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) handles DNA testing for the majority of the state’s law enforcement agencies. We filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in August, asking for records about the current number of untested rape kits in evidence with SLED. Our request was denied.

A subsequent FOIA we filed for records was also denied on Friday, however, a spokesperson for SLED did provide data regarding criminal sexual conduct cases and rape kits.

SLED has approximately 1,987 rape kits that are still awaiting processing.

Below is a breakdown of SLED’s stats on criminal sexual conduct cases through Oct. 31, 2023:

Number of CSC cases received this year504
Total number of CSC cases pending2,543
Number of pending rape kits involved1,987
Number of CSC cases in progress81
Number of CSC cases completed this year162
Number of CSC cases completed in October24

Some of the survivors in these cases know who assaulted them. Some do not. While a tracking system for South Carolina’s rape kits won’t solve the backlog issue, it will increase transparency and allow survivors to have access to updates about their kits.

The rape kit backlog is a problem across the country - not just in South Carolina.

In 2022, the nonpartisan data site USAFacts was able to confirm at least 25,000 untested rape kits nationwide. However, about 20 states including South Carolina did not respond to their request.

As part of FOX Carolina’s investigation into the Upstate’s untested rape kits, we filed 50 Freedom of Information Act requests in August and asked every law enforcement agency in the Upstate how many untested rape kits they have in evidence.

Below is a breakdown of the information we received about the number of rape kits in local jurisdictions that had not been sent to SLED for testing:

The following agencies reported zero untested rape kits in evidence: Abbeville Police Department, Blacksburg Police Department, Campobello Police Department, Chesnee Police Department, Clinton Police Department, Due West Police Department, Duncan Police Department, Inman Police Department, Landrum Police Department, Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, Mauldin Police Department, Ninety Six Police Department, Pendleton Police Department, Seneca Police Department, Union Police Department, Wellford Police Department, and West Pelzer Police Department.

The following agencies did not provide data in response to our request or did not respond to contact attempts: Abbeville County Sheriff’s Office, Calhoun Falls Police Department, Liberty Police Department, and Lyman Police Department.

We also learned there is not a uniform system for determining which rape kits are sent to labs for testing across the state.

Greenville County has its own crime lab and can process DNA without sending evidence to SLED. A spokesperson for the county said generally once analysis begins on a rape kit, it takes one to two months from start to finish for processing.

Greenville County’s lab processes DNA analysis requests in the order they are received, however, they also honor instances where investigating agencies request expedited testing.

Anderson County, like most other counties in the Upstate, send their evidence to SLED for processing. Multiple agencies told us it is up to the investigator, who weighs the complexities of the case, to determine if it will be sent for analysis.

“We just don’t arbitrarily send sexual assault kits to SLED,” said Lt. Chris Scott with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office forensics unit. “It has to be requested by a detective and they’re the ones who have done the follow-up investigation on this and they determine whether or not the sexual assault kit needs to go to SLED.”

Investigators do not know when they’ll get results back from SLED. It all depends on their caseload.

SLED has declined FOX Carolina’s repeated requests for an interview about the rape kit backlog, the process for prioritizing DNA requests, and the delayed tracking system in South Carolina. We have also not been allowed access to tour SLED’s new crime lab.

The agency said they are preparing to roll out Track-Kit, the software system for tracking rape kits throughout the state, by the end of the year.

READ MORE - Off track: South Carolina’s rape kit evidence problem