Jefferson County to revisit unsolved rape cases with federal grant

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Jefferson County District Attorney’s office hopes to re-open unsolved rape cases.

The office received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance for a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.

This will provide resources for all 27 law enforcement agencies across Jefferson County to inventory and test untested rape kits.

“(We want) to make sure that the cases are getting the attention that they deserve, and to help inform best practices moving forward in sexual assault investigations, prosecutions and advocacy,” said Aryn Gieger-Sedgwick, who will direct the program through the district attorney’s office.

According to Geiger-Sedgwick, in theory, rape kits dating back to the 1970’s could be tested for the first time.

Gieger-Sedgwick explained that there are a lot of different reasons why some rape kits never get tested.

“Historically, there have not been as many resources available for sexual assault,” Gieger-Sedgwick said. “It’s a very hard crime to investigate, to prosecute– it’s just difficult.”

District Attorney Danny Carr looks forward to making those resources available.

“This grant, we hope, will provide more stability and more support with court advocates and the things that we’re able to provide to these survivors. It gives them the strength to come forward,” Carr said.

Alexis Sharp, who said she was raped by a man in her 20’s when she was 16 years old, does not live in Jefferson County, but applauds the initiative there.

“It’ll help (victims and families) get closure knowing who ever did it to them would be put away,” she said.

Sharp said her rape kit was never tested, and her case was never resolved.

She’s since started an online petition to urge Alabama lawmakers to pass legislation requiring law enforcement to test rape kits.

Click here to view the petition.

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