Maricopa County Attorney's Office to use $3M grant on sex assault test kits, cold case database

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is receiving around $3 million in federal funding to help find justice for crime victims.

Most of the grant will fund several initiatives, including more support for ongoing testing of sexual assault kits, training for law enforcement agencies in the Valley, and the ability to hire more detectives to assist law enforcement in sexual assault crimes.

Around $500,000 will be dedicated to additional DNA testing with the goal of creating a countywide database of cold cases.

Between 2015 and 2020, the attorney’s office cleared a backlog of more than 4,500 rape kits. Now, investigators are focusing on more than 1,000 kits that have been partially tested and need more advanced testing to find a DNA match to a suspect.

"When you wake up, you’re always thinking, ‘that really happened to me? And why me?’ said Ronda Guzman, a rape survivor.

She became a rape victim in 1986. Thanks to new technology and advanced DNA testing, her case was picked up again by investigators 33 years later.

"To get a call from a detective that wanted to run the rape kit through genealogy DNA and solve my case, it really was life-changing to have closure to my case," Guzman said.

"That’s an unspeakable crime and so this grant money allows us to move forward with those cases," said Allister Adel, Maricopa County Attorney. "By having the ability to test kits and look at cold cases and make sure prosecution of their offender is sound, is going to help them move forward with their resolution and get through the grief and pain they already have."

It’s a life-changing opportunity for many victims.

"Felt validated, felt I wasn’t just a number in a cold case file. I felt like a person it was … unreal," Guzman said.

Since 2016, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has indicted 18 defendants on sexual assault charges stemming from evidence using DNA and forensic genealogy. 

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