FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Contact: Mary Thomasson, Public Information Officer, Marshall University Forensic Science Center, 304-691-8961


Marshall University Forensic Science Center completes analysis of untested sexual assault kits for New Orleans PD

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Marshall University Forensic Science Center has completed a project that eliminated the New Orleans Police Department’s untested sexual assault kits, and two convictions already have been obtained.

In a press conference Tuesday, it was announced that the Marshall University Forensic Science Center’s nationally accredited forensic DNA laboratories conducted analysis of 833 sexual assault cases from the New Orleans Police Department.

The results from these DNA tests already have begun to help law enforcement solve violent sex crimes in their efforts to secure justice for the victims and their families.

The project has yielded 78 hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) with seven of those being national hits. A CODIS hit links either a DNA profile from a forensic case to another case or to an offender profile. These hits provide investigative leads to law enforcement officers to follow.

New Orleans Police Department Commander Paul Noel said he anticipates that over the next two years a lot of sexual assault cases that Marshall’s Forensic Science Center tested will be adjudicated as they follow up on the CODIS hits produced. Noel said the next step in the criminal justice process is to conduct investigations to follow up on the results of the DNA testing. He also noted that the New Orleans Police Department no longer has untested sexual assault kits because they are shipped to the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory every two weeks.

“We could not have gotten this done without this project,” Noel said. “We could have gotten to it, but it would have taken years.” Noel was in charge of criminal investigations which included the sex crimes unit when the project was developed and was instrumental  in the implementation of the project at the New Orleans Police Department.

The Marshall University Forensic Science Center and the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory each received a certificate of appreciation from the National Institute of Justice for the assistance provided to the New Orleans Police Department  and for providing justice to victims of sexual assault in New Orleans. The certificates were presented by Mark Nelson, the program manager who administered the project. Alyson Saadi, Technical Leader for the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory, accepted the certificate and made remarks on behalf of the agency.

The National Institute of Justice organized the collaborative effort between the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory, the New Orleans Police Department and the Marshall University Forensic Science Center. The purpose of the project was to help eliminate the New Orleans Police Department’s untested sexual assault kits and to develop best practices. This project and others the National Institute of Justice is funding and evaluating will help other agencies with similar issues understand the problem and offer potential solutions.  The project was conducted for about one year. 

Dr. Terry W. Fenger, director of Marshall’s Forensic Science Center, said the project is an example of how successful federal, state and local agencies can work together to solve problems.

“Lots of cities and states are facing the same problem of untested sexual assault kits, but the New Orleans Police Department not only addressed it in a proactive manner, but they were transparent about the situation and took the initiative to solve the problem,” Fenger said.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded the New Orleans Police Department’s Crime Laboratory, destroying its DNA laboratory, equipment and significant amounts of documentation of criminal cases.  The Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory subsequently began processing the laboratory work submitted by the New Orleans Police Department.

The Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory played a pivotal role in the project by working all current sexual assault cases for the New Orleans Police Department, allowing the Marshall University Forensic Science Center to concentrate on the older cases. They also reviewed all testing done, entered profiles obtained into the National DNA Database (CODIS), and searched for hits. The Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory is a model crime laboratory which has a very low or no DNA backlog due to efficiency programs they instituted over the past two years, programs which enabled them to offer assistance to the New Orleans Police Department.

Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp and Teri Booth, Community Relations Assistant/Office Manager for U.S. Congressman Nick J. Rahall, were guest speakers at the event. U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller conveyed his remarks and lauded the efforts of the Forensic Science Center and collaborating agencies through a DVD presentation.

Because this project was so successful, the Marshall University Forensic Science Center will be starting another project with the Detroit Police Department.

The event also recognized the re-accreditation of the Marshall University Forensic Science Center’s DNA laboratories as ISO 17025 conformant for biological screening and as a DNA databasing, forensic casework and parentage testing laboratory. Accreditation by the American Association of Blood Banks for parentage testing also was renewed.

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Photo: National Institute of Justice Program Manager Mark Nelson, center, presents Dr. Terry W. Fenger (left) with a certificate of appreciation for the Marshall University Forensic Science Center’s work on the sexual assault kit project and for providing justice to victims of sexual assault in New Orleans. Alyson Saadi (right) of the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory also received a certificate from Nelson for their work on the sexual assault kit project. Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University.

For a video report on the April 10 event, go to http://www.youtube.com/herdvideo.



For further information, contact:  Office of University Communications
Marshall University | 213 Old Main | Huntington, WV 25755-1090
Fax: (304) 696-3197