Attorney general appoints leader of sexual assault kit initiative
COLUMBIA – Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office secured grant money to start taking the next steps to log, process and track untested rape kits in Missouri.
Schmitt appointed judge M. Keithley Williams Wednesday as state coordinator of the sexual assault kit initiative.
Schmitt said the data gathered will "send a message loud and clear."
“If you commit a crime against any person in this state, we will use everything in our power to find you and bring you to justice,” he said.
Schmitt said there is a dire need for the initiative.
“We now know that in our state there are currently thousands of untested sexual assault kits just waiting to be logged,” he said.
The most recent numbers out of the attorney general’s office show a total of 5,424 untested kits. Only 40 percent of law enforcement and hospitals reported their backlogs, Williams said.
“First you have to acknowledge there is a better was of doing business,” she said.
Lee Russell, the board director of a domestic violence shelter in Columbia, said a more efficient system for testing and tracking rape kits will "turn hope into action."
“When someone calls and needs help our advocates can feel and project more confidence that they can bring these perpetrators to justice,” Russell said.
Williams’ position is funded by the $2.8 million grant secured by former Attorney General Josh Hawley.
The attorney general’s office currently has access to 25 percent of its grant funding. Once it completes the logging process, the office will have access to the rest of the funds.