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Crime lab backlog leads to 8-month delay on rape kit DNA analysis

The Edneyville crime lab adjacent to the Henderson County Justice Center is slated to open in June. That facility will begin doing DNA testing starting in September, which should help improve the turnaround time for test results. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Dominique Harris, who is in jail on $190,000 bond, is charged with second-degree rape and kidnapping. The alleged crime took place in West Asheville last May. But it took months for results of a rape kit to come back, allowing Asheville police to arrest Harris.

Attorney General Josh Stein said he was familiar with the case.

“I think it took about eight months for the lab to turn around the results in this test,” Stein said. “And, in my view, eight months is too long.”

“Every day that goes by that those kits aren't back and we don't have the answers, nothing with the justice system can begin, and it builds on that anxiety,” said Andi Craven, program director for Henderson County’s Justice Center.

Craven is not familiar with Harris’ case, but she is well aware of long-reported backlog problems with DNA testing for rape kits.

Stein said salaries for forensic scientists have been raised to $50,000-$65,000. He said that has helped with retention of important staff.

The Edneyville crime lab adjacent to the Henderson County Justice Center is slated to open in June. That facility will begin doing DNA testing starting in September. The goal, Stein said, is to reduce turnaround times to less than eight months, which he said is the average time for evidence analysis. Scientists now training in Raleigh will begin working on DNA testing as soon as their training is complete. Lab techs, Stein said, have also been hired to free up scientists to do testing.

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