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State board OKs using settlement funds to expand testing of backlogged rape kits

CARSON CITY — The state Board of Examiners on Tuesday approved using $414,000 in legal settlement funds received by the attorney general’s office to expand the testing of backlogged rape kits held by the Washoe County sheriff’s office.

The money comes from a settlement by Chase Bank with the Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection. State lawmakers in December approved using about $3.7 million in grants and settlement funds to erase the backlog statewide.

Wes Duncan, first assistant attorney general, said there are about 1,100 untested rape kits in Northern Nevada. About 610 kits in the Washoe County sheriff’s office will be tested with the settlement funding. The backlog should be eliminated by 2018.

In Southern Nevada, Las Vegas police are using a grant to work through a backlog of about 6,500 kits, he said; they also expect to complete the work by the end of 2018.

The analysis of 290 kits by a Virginia firm for Las Vegas police has so far yielded 44 DNA matches to samples from criminal offenders, Duncan said.

“We’re certainly excited that the money that has been used towards addressing this statewide problem so far has been all nontaxpayer dollars,” he said.

The agency continues to look for ways to address the backlog, Duncan said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a board member, called the effort “an incredibly important public service.”

“This is something that is essential to our criminal justice system to bring individuals to justice,” he said.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt said it is important to test all the kits even if individuals don’t want to pursue charges because the DNA information will be on file if offenders are transient and commit crimes elsewhere.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find @seanw801 on Twitter.

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