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Cold Case Sexual Assault Investigations: Key Considerations & Recommendations

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2020
3 pages

As part of the training and technical assistance provided under the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA's) Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), this document identifies and discusses key considerations and recommendations for cold case sexual assault investigations, including cases reopened due to the availability of DNA evidence obtained from previously untested sexual assault kits (SAKs).


This training material addresses three typical ways that a cold-case sexual assault investigation can proceed. First, the least common scenario in the reopening of a sexual assault case is the "classic case," which is reopened due to family or media pressure or to the amount of time that has passed since the crime. A second scenario for reopening a cold sexual assault case is "DNA availability," which occurs due to DNA found in a SAK previously untested. This is the most common reason for reopening a cold case of sexual assault. A third reason for reopening a cold sexual assault case is the discovery of "new case information" other than DNA evidence, such as a suspect's confession or a link found through evidence obtained in another case. This document then provides instruction in preparation for cold case investigations. Topics addressed are the knowledge, ability, and experience required of an investigator of cold sexual assault cases; case prioritization; the assignment of cases; locating, collecting, and reviewing case materials; and organizing the case file. Best practices are then outlined for investigation and case management strategies. The document concludes with a listing of training topics for investigators responsible for cold case sexual assaults.

Date Published: April 1, 2020