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Southern Nevada backlog of rape kits now 90 percent cleared

About 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s once-massive backlog of untested rape kits, including some that went untested for up to three decades, had been cleared as of Tuesday.

The overhaul to test the backlogged kits collected between 1985 and 2014 was funded by a $1.9 million grant awarded to the Metropolitan Police Department by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which is leading a national initiative to eliminate sexual assault kit backlogs.

Rape kit backlogs, a problem across the country, have been blamed on a lack of training, resources and policies that outline when to test rape kits.

Metro had identified more than 6,680 untested kits, all of which had been outsourced for testing by December, according to a recently released report from the district attorney’s office. As of Tuesday, testing had been completed on 6,116, of those kits, and the remaining kits are expected to be cleared by this summer.

Testing on about 3,040 of the backlogged kits were covered by the grant, leading to at least seven arrests and one conviction as of Tuesday. Most notable was the January 2018 arrest of former Metro officer Arthur Sewall in the killing of Nadia Iverson in May 1997.

Her murder went unsolved for more than 20 years until her kit, sent for testing in March 2016, showed Sewall’s DNA was a match for Iverson’s kit.

Sewall faces a charge of murder with the use of a deadly weapon, and a jury trial is slated to begin Nov. 4, court records show.

In addition, the grant-funded testing resulted in 679 new DNA profiles added to CODIS, a tool used for linking violent crimes, as well as 339 CODIS hits, according to the report.

“We have a very aggressive testing schedule, and we’ve been fortunate enough to finally have the money we need to move forward with this process,” Kim Murga, Metro’s DNA laboratory director, said during an April panel discussion at the Rape Crisis Center.

Metro’s laboratory handles all sexual assault kits collected in four counties: Clark, Nye, Lincoln and Esmeralda.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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