Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $2,500,000)
The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Taskforce, led by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO), has completed investigating all 7,024 previously untested SAKs collected in Cuyahoga County between 1993 and 2011, resulting in over 800 new indictments. However, additional work remains to identify sexual offenders in Cuyahoga County.
Sex offenders, including serial sex offenders, remain unidentified. In over 180 stranger sexual assault cases in Cuyahoga County, DNA testing resulted in a Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) upload, but there was no resulting “hit” to a named offender. To date, the CCPO has indicted 182 John Doe defendants and has used or will use 2019, 2020 and 2021 SAKI funding to apply forensic genetic genealogy (FGG) to up to 50 of them. The CCPO seeks 2022 SAKI funding to apply FGG to additional John Doe defendants and to sexually motivated homicides with a DNA profile in CODIS but no hit.
Second, the Cleveland Police Department (CPD)’s Sex Crimes Unit has additional SAKs (collected from 2012 forward) that need re-investigation. With prior SAKI awards, we are re-investigating over 1,600 SAKs collected by CPD between 2012 and 2019. The forensics in many of these SAKs were not fully leveraged. To date, this project has resulted in over 30 new indictments. The CCPO seeks 2022 SAKI funding to complete these re-investigations of more recent CPD SAKs.
Third, the CCPO seeks to interview some of its most prolific serial sex offenders in order to gather information on additional offenses committed as well as other aspects of their offending (e.g., forensic awareness, victim and site selection decision-making).
To fully leverage the evidence contained in the SAKs to identify and prosecute sexual offenders, the CCPO proposes the following goals: (a) utilize advanced DNA methodologies to identify violent sexual offenders, (b) investigate and prosecute leads produced from advanced DNA methodologies in an evidence-based, victim-centered manner; and (c) leverage our experiences to inform practices locally and nationally.
These goals will be achieved through the following deliverables: (a) investigate and prosecute sexual assaults and sexually motivated homicides; (b) assess “lessons learned” via independent research conducted by Cleveland State University; (c) document and disseminate processes and outcomes; (d) enhance Taskforce competencies and capabilities through cross-disciplinary training on victim-centered practices and advanced DNA methodologies; and (e) continue entering cases into ViCAP.