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More than 10,000 forgotten Detroit rape kits to be tested

Detroit prosecutors working to get thousands of rape kits tested, some of which may contain evidence for cases two decades old, will get help from the state, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette announced on Wednesday.

The attorney general’s office pledged $4 million in settlement funds to process the kits. While some of the kits are not in viable condition, 569 have been tested so far, Snyder said at a news conference.

The push to build cases around the evidence began after thousands of rape kits were discovered gathering dust in police storage in 2009. A total of 11,303 would ultimately be recovered from the former police evidence warehouse.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy has seen her share of grisly crime, but even she was shocked by a discovery in 2009 at a former police storage warehouse, where stacks of dusty boxes were found containing thousands of untested rape kits, some decades old. Rock Center's Kate Snow reports.

"It' the right thing to do because there are people who have been victims that are in these kits that deserve justice. It's right for our criminal justice system because there are bad people out there who should be put away," Snyder said. "This will allow us to do that."

The kits “sat on a shelf,” for years, Schuette said Wednesday. “In essence, this rape kit was stamped with ‘return to sender’ or ‘insufficient postage.’”

Wayne County, Mich., Prosecutor Kym Worthy has championed an initiative to use the kits containing DNA evidence from victims to bring perpetrators to justice, though the cases were in some instances decades old.

“What we were potentially looking at, at that time, was over 10,000 rape kits, representing over 10,000 cases where women had reported, whose lives and what happened to them was sitting on a shelf and nobody cared. I was shocked, and I think I was kind of stunned – and not too much stuns me,” Worthy told Rock Center in February.

The Detroit Crime Commission has supported Worthy’s initiative to get each kit tested, saying on its website that, “Each rape kit has the potential to solve multiple crimes.” Each kit costs between $1,200 and $1,500 to get tested, according to the crime commission’s site.

“To know that we had all of these potential victims sitting out there, all of them, mostly women, and nothing had been done, was just truly appalling,” Worthy told Rock Center.

Rob Spada, then an assistant prosecutor in Worthy’s office, was the one who stumbled on the untested rape kits during a tour of the downtown Detroit police storage warehouse.

“I saw numerous racks with cardboard boxes, and they told me at that point those were rape kits. I immediately asked the representatives were they tested rape kits or untested rape kits. And at that point they said, ‘We don’t know,’” Spada told Rock Center.

Of the 569 kits that have been tested so far, 136 of those have yielded hits in the Combined DNA Index System maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Worthy said. Thirty-two of those hits have been identified as serial rapists, she said.

NBC News’ Mario Garcia, Kristen Powers, and Jessica Hopper contributed to this report.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is fighting to reverse a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits after more than 11,000 kits were found in a Detroit warehouse. Some of the kits were decades old.

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