GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) — Green Bay Police are hopeful some of the hundreds of pieces of evidence they have awaiting DNA testing will help solve cases in other parts of the state.
The evidence was collected after sexual assaults in Green Bay several years ago, but was never sent in for testing for many reasons.
Now state officials want it.
Large cardboard boxes line the shelves in evidence storage at the Green Bay Police Department.
In another room, dozens of smaller boxes fill even more shelves.
In all, there are about 350 Sexual Assault Nurse Exam, or SANE kits, containing DNA evidence from sexual assaults in Green Bay from the early 2000s to 2011 sitting at the department.
“In 2011, some laws changed and practices changed, and the way we investigate sexual assaults now, and the technology advances. Back then we didn’t have that technology, so we didn’t send a lot of things in,” explains Lt. Jeff Brester.
He says those cases were closed, and often the evidence didn’t need to be tested if the suspect and victim knew each other and had both been identified.
“There are several times where a victim is in the hospital, not knowing. But a day or two later, through the investigation, we determine that it was a known suspect,” says Brester.
But now, as part of an initiative across Wisconsin, the Department of Justice wants all that evidence, whether it’s been identified or not, to see if there’s a hit on unsolved cases.
“If we have a suspect that’s travelling around the state committing these types of crimes, we may have identified him in Green Bay, but we can maybe tie him then to different sexual assaults around the state,” says Brester.
Investigators say they’ve been working on this for two or three years, creating a detailed spreadsheet of all the cases and reasons, but they’re still waiting for the state to accept the kits.
Brester hopes they’ll finally be shipped for testing in February or March, but he says the backlog at the state crime lab, and the fact every agency in the state is supposed to be doing the same thing, isn’t making the process any faster. Police can’t send them until the DOJ says they can.
“It’s my understanding they have a private contractor that’s assisting them in testing,” he says.
Police hope the kits are tested soon to close cases and help possible victims who’ve spent years waiting for answers.