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Maricopa County close to clearing out backlog of 4,500 rape kits

(Getty Images Photo/Scott Gries)

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is nearly finished clearing out its backlog of about 4,500 untested rape kits.

“The backlog was identified in 2015, and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has been working as kind of a leader in the movement to get through this backlog,” Amanda Steele, MCAO spokeswoman, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

Steele said 90% of the kits in the backlog have been fully tested. The 250 kits that remain are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Of the kits that have been tested, 754 resulted in a “DNA hit,” meaning DNA that could be used to identify an offender was found. Some of those results have already resulted in convictions.

“The point of this is to seek justice for victims, and so over the last four years, using the results from these kits, we’ve been able to indict 13 defendants and eight of those have already been sentenced for their crimes,” Steele said.

MCAO received a total of $5.7 million through four grants to wipe out the backlog. The money also allowed the office to hire a detective and prosecutor to work on these cases alone.

“Ending the backlog was incredibly important, but what we want the public to understand is that this is just the beginning,” Steele said.

“Now that we’re starting to get the data and results in, now the investigation portion starts.”

Steele said the next sentencing for a defendant involved in sexual assault testing is June 12.

The defendant, Michael Paladino, was accused of multiple sexual assaults in the Phoenix area, some involving juveniles.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report. 

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