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Cuyahoga County Violent Crime Cold Case Investigations and Prosecutions

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $2,500,000)

The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force (Task Force), led by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO), has completed inventorying, testing, and investigating over 7,000 untested and partially tested SAKs collected in Cuyahoga County.  The Task Force completed 7,026 investigations and indicted 890 unique defendants. Only 14 prosecutions remain active (exceeding the 2023 SAKI Purpose Area 6 requirement that 75% of the downstream activities have been addressed).

The Task Force now seeks funding to expand beyond sexual assaults to tackle all unsolved violent crimes in Cleveland. A preliminary review of violent crime data managed by the CCPO reveals 29,982 violent crime incidents between 2017 and 2022. Analyses conducted by proposed research partner Dr. Rachel Lovell (Cleveland State University) indicate that only 39% of these incidents initially included a named suspect, suggesting the majority remain unresolved.

The Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Lab’s (CCRFSL) submission policy permits one submission at a time. Subsequent submissions are permitted if initial results are not probative. The Task Force reviewed over 1,000 cases involving evidence submitted to the CCRFSL between 2012 and 2019 and discovered that permissible subsequent submissions are frequently not submitted, suggesting that significant amounts of probative evidence connected to unsolved violent crimes remains untested.

To fully leverage evidence from unsolved violent cold cases, we propose the following goals: (a) conduct an inventory of unsolved violent crimes in Cleveland; (b) identify and locate evidence from unresolved violent crimes; (c) submit evidence for forensic analysis, up to and including FGG; (d) investigate and prosecute forensic leads; and (e) conduct, document, and disseminate research and evaluation on the process and outcome of these efforts.

These goals will be achieved through the following deliverables: (a) conduct an inventory, submit forensic evidence, investigate CODIS hits and familial search/FGG leads, and prosecute resulting indictments using experienced SAKI personnel; (b) evaluate the process and outcomes of the Task Force’s effort to solve violent cold cases via independent research conducted by Cleveland State University; (c) document and disseminate research via scholarly research products, presentations, and trainings; (d) enhance Task Force competencies and capabilities through cross-disciplinary training related to victim-centered practices and advanced DNA methodologies; (e) enter eligible cases into ViCAP to solve additional crimes; and (f) create a soft interview room for victims/survivors.

Date Created: September 25, 2023