A backlog of 1,140 untested sexual assault kits from past Montana criminal investigations will be sent out this week for testing. The process of investigating these kits was started by Montana Attorney General Tim Fox over a year ago, but a final certification required by the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative has freed up $2 million grant to pay for the testing.

"The certification frees up that money and we will start sending the kits in phases to a laboratory in Salt Lake City for testing," Fox said. "Then we have Marshal University in Huntington West Virginia which will perform a technical review of all of the test results to make sure that there is sufficient basis for all of the scientific conclusions."

Fox says the state has put safeguards in place to prevent another backlog of sexual assault kits from forming. The Montana Department of Justice is currently hiring positions to help sort out the process after the DNA results are checked.

"We will soon be hiring a victim advocate and a cold case investigator, so we will be off and running on this process," Fox said. "In the mean time, we have developed policies and procedures and a database in order to track kits in the future so they don't accumulate."

Eventually, the DNA results from Montana cases may be matched up with the FBI’s Combined DNA Index system, which could lead to criminal charges in cold cases from the past. Fox says the oldest sexual assault kits are being tested first to ensure that a statute of limitations on these cases doesn’t become a hurdle.

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