LANSING, Mich. — It made national headlines when Wayne County announced over 11,000 untested rape kits.
The discovery led the County Prosecutor to create a task force dedicated to getting the kits tested, finding the victims, and bringing charges against offenders.
But that discovery had wide-ranging ripple effects in other jurisdictions, including Ingham and Jackson counties where over 100 untested kits sat.
Since then, an Ingham Jackson Regional Sexual Assault Kit Initiative was established with the help of money from the state
The task force takes a multi-disciplinary approach to solving these sexual assault cold cases by employing the expertise of investigators, victims’ rights advocates, and special prosecutors.
Detective Annie Harrison is one of the people working to investigate these cold cases.
“When we did an inventory in Ingham County, we learned we had 123 untested sexual assault evidence kits. And thanks to funds from MSP and the AG we were able to have every single one of those kits tested," said Harrison.
So far, there have been charges brought against two suspected offenders in mid-Michigan.
In the most recent case, a Jackson County man is facing several charges including two counts of 1st-degree Criminal Sexual Conduct.
Tyrone Demarcus Parker was arraigned in June and is expected to go back before a judge on July 23, 2021.
Harrison expects more charges to be filed in the coming months based on the evidence found in the kits.
“We do have cases in which we’ve had what we call CODIS hits where we’ve been able to make DNA associations with other cases and so we’re investigating those," said Harrison.
Similar work is being done in Wayne County but on a much grander scale because of the number of untested kits left untouched on warehouse shelves for years.
Lead prosecutor, Susan Dillon, says one of the biggest surprises for her has been the number of suspects who’ve been linked to several kits.
“Over 830 actual serial offenders existed within the kits meaning that these defendants, these offenders sexually assaulted more than one woman," said Dillon.
Dillon shares one case where the offender was linked to 11 sexual assault cases involving school-aged girls.
This man relocated to Kentucky and was caught there and convicted of raping three more girls.
Investigation is not the only component of the work being done through the task force.
Victims’ advocacy plays a big role.
Sara Tunney works with End Violent Encounters or EVE here in Ingham County.
Tunney says the initiative is the start of the healing process for the victims of these crimes.
“From my perspective, that seems to be the biggest impact to the victim is when we say we’re here, we believe you and we’re sorry this happened to you," said Tunney.
Detective Harrison echoes Tunney’s observation and says the community can make a huge difference in supporting victims and solving these crimes.
“All of us have a role in supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable," said Harrison.
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