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Once-shelved sex assault evidence kits now clinching cases

Backlogged tests are being tested
Posted at 7:40 PM, Feb 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-26 21:40:18-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - 12 convictions for sexual assault. That’s the sentence for a man -- in Pima Superior Court Monday. That conviction is part of a bigger story: DNA evidence kits that had not been tested -- are being tested now -- and they're leading to convictions.

Nathan Loebe was just found guilty of 12 counts of sexual assault plus kidnapping, and stalking. The attacks happened over twelve years. But a DNA match to make a case strong enough to arrest him was not available until two years ago when a million dollar grant covered the cost of analyzing about 18 hundred sexual assault evidence kits that had been in storage.

Loebe's conviction is the first to come from those test results.

SACASA, The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault sends nurses and counselors to hospitals to assist sexual assault victims.

Katlyn Monje of Sacasa says victims may take comfort in knowing the evidence samples will go to analysis not just to storage.

"So our focus isn't on that initially but typically speaking survivors are obviously a little more at ease that if they do make the decision to make their evidence for collection that something can be done about it."

An organization called End The Backlog says as of 2016 Arizona had more than 6400 untested kits but since then, Federal, State and local resources have applied millions of dollars to complete the tests.

And when evidence kits come out of storage and turn cold cases hot again that can give victims a fresh hope for justice.

Monje says, "Survivors who are inspired by what they're seen in the news to now make a report about something that happened years ago, it could be brand new reports but it could be somebody who's saying yes you know what, I just want to follow up based on what I've seen in the news. I'm kind of interested in where my case is at now."

And she says when sexual assault cases are solved and perpetrators go to prison it helps survivors feel the whole community is standing behind them.