TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa police are continuing efforts to support sexual assault survivors and find suspects in their cases.
The Tulsa Police Department received a $2 million grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) to test previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits.
TPD initially received this grant for $1.5 million in 2018 and recently reapplied for it. They originally had about 3,000 untested kits. With the previous grant, it tested nearly 800 of those.
TPD Special Victims Unit Lt. Darin Ehrenrich said most of these kits may have been previously looked at, but for various reasons weren’t tested at the time.
“So, detectives had looked at those cases and just determined, for a number of reasons, either this victim’s uncooperative, already have a known suspect, or they’re both stating some sort of sexual contact happened [and] it’s just the question of whether that consent was there," he said.
The sexual assault kits are sent to a lab in Oklahoma City for testing. Those with strong DNA will be entered into a national database They said of the kits tested so far, 90 were eligible profiles for the database, and 34 were DNA matches.
Through this, Lt. Ehrenrich said they’re making important discoveries.
“What was found when agencies just started testing every single kit was, yeah maybe we don’t need to test it for this specific case right here, but when we do test this kit, the DNA in this kit matches maybe a DNA sample taken from a burglary or from a robbery or from a sexual assault kit that was from another jurisdiction or another state," Lt. Ehrenrich said.
They’ve seen the process work.
About a year ago, TPD solved a nearly 20-year-old sexual assault cold case thanks to this testing. They arrested Alfred Wilson, who they discovered had previous rape convictions in Virginia and Germany.
Now, Lt. Ehrenrich hopes further testing will find even more suspects. He encourages victims to report their cases to the police.
“In addition to it mattering to that victim, you coming forward and having the strength to report can impact future individuals as well," Lt. Ehrenrich said. "Because every one of these we can get off the street, there’s no telling how many victims we save from that.”
Over the next three years, TPD expects to test 1,700 more kits.
The grant also funds a cold case detective and a dedicated victim advocate for TPD’s Special Victims Unit along with a full-time SVU Investigator for the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.
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