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KARE 11 Investigates: Governor supports testing all rape kits

Walz says he’ll fund a multi-million dollar plan to test all rape kits and establish a statewide tracking system after a KARE 11 investigation exposed failures.

ST PAUL, Minn — Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday that he supports a bill moving through the state legislature that would test nearly all rape kits in Minnesota.

That bill, prompted by KARE 11 reporting, would require about $7.2 million to fund, which Walz said he will include in his budget.

“Yes, yes, yes – you can expect to see that,” Walz said responding to questions from KARE 11.

Walz also responded to a KARE 11 story from Monday, finding that less than half of reported sex assaults in Minnesota result in a tested rape kit.

“It is totally unacceptable,” Walz said. “I bet if you asked the average Minnesotan they would be appalled and could not imagine that when at a time – the worst moment of some’s life and going through the procedure of a rape kit and then the idea that they would be put in a cooler and stuck somewhere or lost  - totally unacceptable.”

Since last summer KARE 11 has been reporting on Minnesota’s failure to properly test rape kits, finding that potentially thousands of cases were never fully tested, kits were destroyed without testing, and victims are often left in the dark as to the status of their kits.

RELATED: Lawmakers want fixes to rape kit problems exposed by KARE 11

Last week, Reps. Marion O’Neill and Kelly Moller introduced a bipartisan bill in the Minnesota House that would address many of those problems, including requiring all kits in cases reported to police be tested. Current law allows police to not test a kit if it deems the results “would not add evidentiary value to a case.”

But even those kits could have value. Any suspect DNA found when a kit is tested can be entered into a federal database meant to track serial offenders.

“We’re missing serial rapists,” O’Neill said. “If you have a consent case in Ramsey county and another one in Hennepin county and another one in Anoka county, those counties aren’t talking to each other. They’re not going to tie these cases together.”

The bill would also fund the creation of a database that would be easily searchable by the survivor to see the status of the testing.

The House bill now has nearly 30 sponsors. A companion bill in the Senate also has bipartisan support.

The bill solves another problem identified by KARE 11. Police across the state have destroyed hundreds of tested kits, likely setting in motion a statute of limitations on when charges can be brought – anywhere from three to nine years. If passed, law enforcement agencies would be required to keep kits “indefinitely.”

RELATED: KARE 11 Investigates: MN fails thousands of sexual assault victims

Kits in cases not reported to police would be kept by the BCA for up to 30 months.

“I think you’ll see … the resources necessary to make sure that those kits are treated the way they should be and we get the convictions that we owe to the victims,” Walz said.

Victims of sexual assault who need help are encouraged to go to www.rapehelpmn.org to find an advocate near them.  

If you have a suggestion, or want to blow the whistle on government fraud, waste, or corruption, email us at: investigations@kare11.com