Attorney General’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science at Bowling Green State University

BGSU, BCI researchers team up to analyze sex assault evidence

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A paper published in a leading journal offers way to make the assessment of sexual assault kits more efficient. That could lead to more perpetrators bein identified and held accountable. The scholarly paper published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences late last year was the combined effort of the Ohio Attorney General’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science at Bowling Green State University and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The work was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Jon Sprague, director of the BGSU Center, said the foundation has a long standing interest in applying statistical methods to criminal justice and forensics science issues. The study, conducted at the BCI lab on campus, looked at the 14,000 sexual assault kits collected through the Attorney General Mike DeWine’s initiative that was launched in 2011. That initiative aimed to process sexual assault kits, known as SAKs, which had been collected in evidence rooms around the state. The BGSU project brought together a team from across the state to look at those 14,000 kits in the BCI database. Jaime Kerka, from the BCI lab in Ridgefield, was tasked with data mining, digging down into the numbers. She ended up compiling a spreadsheet with 3 million cells, Sprague said. That enabled the team to analyze what was in the kits. “What was significant was the application of statistics to the evidence,” Sprague said. That looked at a multitude of characteristics recorded by the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) during the initial examination of the victim. That would include evidence collected from swabs from various parts of the body, vagina, anal, ear, neck, as well as samples from clothing, including underwear.  “This can guide people where to you want to start and speed up the process and reduce cost,” Sprague said. The goal is to get DNA that’s eligible to be entered into the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Data from 2,500 of the kits were studied to see the likelihood that they would yield usable DNA samples. The…