While I’m a confessed technophobe in terms of a lot of the exciting new technology coming our way (looking at you, killer robots), even I have to admit that advances in technology are going a long way in fighting violent crime. That fact was proven yet again this month as another cold case was allegedly solved by tracking down DNA collected from a rape victim decades ago. In this case, the crime took place in 1998, but the evidence in question was only recently processed. The crime took place in Florida but the alleged perpetrator was picked up in San Francisco. (NBC Washington)
Authorities say DNA linked to a Florida rape more than 20 years ago has led to a man being arrested and extradited from San Francisco.
The Palm Beach Post cites a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report as saying Lenny Ray Friou has been arrested in the 1998 rape of an 18-year-old woman in West Palm Beach. He was jailed without bail in the county Wednesday on a charge of sexual assault with a weapon or force.
The sheriff’s office started a project in 2015 to review a backlog of 1,500 rape evidence kits.
Unlike some recent cases we’ve discussed, such as the arrest of the Golden State Killer, this one doesn’t seem to involve the police using public DNA testing company data. (Or if it does, they’re not mentioning it.) The Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Department has been systematically going through a massive backlog of rape kits that were never tested for some reason, but thankfully weren’t thrown out. (As happened in Chicago some years ago to the horror of many victims.) If a suspect’s DNA is already in a national law enforcement database, a match can lead to a quick arrest as happened here.
If this incident highlights anything for us, it’s the fact that we still have a long way to go in promptly processing and efficiently storing this sort of evidence. The backlog of untested rape kits in Palm Beach County alone was in excess of 1,500. That’s a simply obscene amount of evidence that’s been neglected, mostly due to insufficient funding and resources to process them all. And most of them represent some woman out there waiting for justice and a rapist who remains on the loose simply because of administrative inefficiencies.
The entire state of Florida is making headway on the rape kit backlog, which is a good thing, but they’re still only about 50% of the way through it after four years of intensive efforts. Other states are still lagging far behind. Yes, it’s an expensive process and law enforcement budgets are already strained everywhere you go. But it’s simply criminal that this condition persists and the funding needs to be found to empty that backlog and start processing future kits in an expedient fashion.